Despite coronavirus-related lockdowns, levels of climate-warming chemicals in the atmosphere reached new highs in 2020, according to the UN’s World Meteorological Organization.
Carbon dioxide, the most important greenhouse gas, is currently 50 per cent more than it was during the Industrial Revolution when people began using fossil fuels in large quantities. Since 1750, methane levels have more than doubled. According to the WMO report, all-important greenhouse gases (GHG) climbed faster in 2020 than the previous decade’s average, and this trend has persisted in 2021.
According to WMO chief Prof Petteri Taalas, the data demonstrates the climate situation is worsening and sends a “stark” message to the nations convening at the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow in a week. The summit’s negotiators must take steps to preserve the aim of zero GHG emissions by 2050 alive and avoid the worst climate impacts. Only by halting emissions can the levels of greenhouse gases be stabilised, and the temperature rises that cause rising harm from heatwaves, floods, and droughts be halted.
A remark on The World Meteorological Organization’s yearly study on heat-trapping chemicals in the atmosphere, the Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, “The Greenhouse Gas Bulletin contains a stark, scientific message for climate change negotiators at COP26,” said World Meteorological Organization Secretary-General Petteri Taalas. “At the current rate of increase in greenhouse gas concentrations, we will see a temperature increase by the end of this century far in excess of the Paris agreement targets of 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius (2.7-3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.”
The data for the report comes from a network that tracks the number of greenhouse gases that remain in the atmosphere after some have been absorbed by oceans and the biosphere.
The Geneva-based agency also noted evidence of a concerning new development in its report: Due to deforestation and reduced humidity in the region, parts of the Amazon rainforest have shifted from being a carbon “sink” that absorbs CO2 into a source of CO2, according to the report.
The results showing the Amazon transitioning from sink to source were a first, according to Oksana Tarasova, chief of the World Meteorological Organization’s atmospheric and environment research division. However, he noted that they came from a specific southeastern section of the Amazon, not the entire rainforest.
The largest source of CO2, which accounts for 66 per cent of global warming, is coal, oil, and gas combustion. CO2 emissions decreased by roughly 5% in 2020 as a result of Covid limitations compared to 2019. However, billions of tonnes of CO2 were still pumped into the atmosphere, indicating that the Covid economic slowdown “had no discernible impact on atmospheric levels of GHG and their growth rates,” according to the World Meteorological Organization.
Methane is responsible for 16% of global warming, with the majority of emissions coming from human activities such as cow rearing and fossil fuel manufacturing. Because methane is a strong and short-lived greenhouse gas, reducing emissions has a quick effect. Prior to Cop26, the United States and the European Union promised to reduce methane emissions by 30% by 2030.
Nitrous oxide is the other significant GHG, accounting for 7% of global warming. The majority of these emissions are caused by the overuse of chemical fertilisers in agriculture and cattle manure. The Global Atmosphere Watch Programme of the World Meteorological Organization collects GHG data.
Separately, the United Nations climate office said Monday that its analysis of official promises made by nations that signed up to the Paris Agreement indicated that global emissions might be reduced by 83-88 per cent by 2050 compared to 2019.
More concerning, based on current official pledges, emissions in 2030 are expected to be 16% higher than in 2010.
“Such an increase, unless changed quickly, may lead to a temperature rise of about 2.7C (4.9F) by the end of the century,” the United Nations stated.
Experts argue that if the Paris objective of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, ideally no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, is to be met, emissions must drop by 2030 compared to 2010 levels and effectively reach zero by mid-century.
“Overshooting the temperature goals will lead to a destabilized world and endless suffering, especially among those who have contributed the least to the GHG emissions in the atmosphere,” Patricia Espinosa, the UN’s climate chief, said.
She went on to declare, “We are nowhere near where science says we should be.”
Alok Sharma, who will lead the United Nations discussions in Glasgow, said progress had been made since the Paris agreement was reached in 2015 when forecasts of existing carbon cuts suggested warming of up to 4 degrees Celsius.
According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the global average concentration of carbon dioxide, the principal greenhouse gas, reached a new high of 413.2 parts per million last year. Despite a 5.6 per cent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels owing to COVID-19 limitations, the 2020 increase was higher than the annual average over the previous decade, according to WMO.
GHG levels in the atmosphere are higher than they have ever been in human history, and they are at their highest in 3-5 million years. “But there weren’t 7.8 billion people then,” Tallas said, adding that global temperatures were 2-3 degrees warmer and sea levels were 10-20 metres higher than they are now.
“The true success, or failure, of Cop26 will be written in our skies in the form of greenhouse gas concentrations. This WMO report provides a brutally frank assessment of what’s been written there to date. So far, it’s an epic fail,” said Prof Dave Reay, at the University of Edinburgh.
Human-caused carbon dioxide emissions, which mostly originate from the combustion of fossil fuels such as oil and gas or the manufacture of cement, account for around two-thirds of the warming influence on the climate. According to the World Meteorological Organization, last year’s economic downturn caused by the pandemic “did not have any discernible impact on the atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases and their growth rates, although there was a temporary decline in new emissions.”
Have greenhouse gases increased or decreased since 1970?
Carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide — three essential long-lived greenhouse gases – have all increased significantly in atmospheric concentrations since around 1750, according to data spanning the last 2000 years. The rates of rising in these gases are staggering. CO2, for example, has never climbed above 30 ppm in any of the other 1,000-year periods in this dataset but has already grown by 30 ppm in the last two decades. Since the Industrial Revolution, human activities have been substantially responsible for these increases in greenhouse gas concentrations and their rapid rate of change (1800). The competition between sources and sinks has resulted in the current atmospheric levels.
How much has greenhouse gases increase in 2021?
In 2021, global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions are expected to grow by 1.5 billion tonnes, the second-largest increase in history, reversing the majority of last year’s reduction caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. This would be the largest annual increase in emissions since 2010 when the world was recovering from the global financial crisis in a carbon-intensive manner.
In 2021, global energy consumption is expected to rise by 4.6 per cent, led by emerging markets and developing countries, surpassing the level of 2019. In 2021, demand for all fossil fuels is expected to increase dramatically, with coal and gas demand expected to exceed 2019 levels. Oil is also making a strong comeback, although it is anticipated to remain below its peak in 2019, as the aviation sector continues under pressure. Despite rising demand for renewables, the predicted increase in coal use surpasses that of renewables by about 60%.
What has caused the increase in greenhouse gases from 1750 to today?
Since 1750, greenhouse gases produced by human activities have had a warming effect on the Earth’s climate. Carbon dioxide has been the most significant contributor to global warming, followed by methane and black carbon. Despite the fact that aerosol pollution and other activities have produced cooling, human activities have overall warmed the Earth.