Carbon dioxide levels hit a new high despite COVID lockdowns - WMO
Levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere hit a new record of 410.5 parts per million in 2019 and are expected to keep rising this year despite a slight reduction in emissions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said in its annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin on Monday.
Atmospheric concentrations of CO2, the most important of several greenhouse gases that trap heat in the atmosphere and contribute to climate change, have risen by 50 per cent since pre-industrial times.
“So the CO2 which we have now in the atmosphere is accumulated since 1750, so it's every single bit which we put in the atmosphere since that time actually forms the current concentration. It's not what happened today or yesterday, it’s the whole history of the human economic and human development, which actually lead us to this global level of 410”, Oksana Tarasova, WMO Chief of Atmospheric and Environment Research Division, told a news conference in Geneva.
WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said that COVID-related lockdowns were expected to reduce this year’s carbon dioxide emissions by between four and seven per cent.
Dr. Tarasova said that CO2 levels in the atmosphere would continue to increase rapidly, and even if CO2 emissions stopped, it would take decades for atmospheric levels to start to fall.
“When we talk about the impact of COVID and Professor Taalas indicated that the impact of COVID on emissions is between four to seven per cent. So despite the fact that it looked like that the world stands still, we get only the decrease of four to seven per cent in emissions which we produced. So our whole economy and our consumption patterns actually wire us to the extremely high emissions, even if we all sit on lockdown and limit our mobility, because the lockdown is only limited on mobility and not on our consumption.”
Professor Taalas said the world needed to move rapidly towards carbon neutrality, and many countries were now promising to do so.
“If you would like to reach carbon neutrality or this 1.5 degree (Celsius) target, then we should become carbon neutral by 2050. And as I said, the good news is that we have now a growing amount of countries and groups of countries who have committed to that. So far we have 50 per cent of the global emissions which are coming from China, European Union and Japan and South Korea, and also 50 per cent of the global GDP behind this,”he said.
“If the USA with the Biden administration will have the same target that would mean we would have the majority of our emissions and also the majority of the global economy behind such a target. And we should bend this emissions growth curve in the coming five years, and then we should start seeing drops of the emissions of the order of six per cent per year until 2050 to reach that target.”
Asked about the prospects for environmentally-friendly policies in the next U.S. administration, Professor Taalas said: “Biden, at least in his campaign, he was indicating that they would invest both in carbon-friendly technologies, there would be a fairly, fairly big package for that. And we are talking about a couple of trillions. And then he has indicated that he would like to have the same aim as many others, to become carbon neutral by 2050, and of course that would be good news for the – globally, and it might have the domino effect that it might motivate also some other countries.”