Despite a short dip during pandemic lockdowns, greenhouse gas concentrations reached a new record high last year and climbed at a quicker pace than the yearly average for the prior decade, according to a report released Monday by the World Meteorological Organization.
The announcement came as the UN climate agency cautioned that the world is still on track to fail its objective of reducing emissions as part of global efforts to combat global warming.
Both statements were made just days before a United Nations climate change meeting in Glasgow, Scotland. Many environmental activists, lawmakers, and scientists believe the COP26 conference, which runs from October 31 to November 12, represents an important, if not critical, chance for tangible pledges to the 2015 Paris climate agreement’s goals.
The World Meteorological Organization’s yearly study on heat-trapping chemicals in the atmosphere, the Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, “contains a clear, scientific message for climate change negotiators at COP26,” said World Meteorological Organization Secretary-General Petteri Taalas. “At the present pace of growth in greenhouse gas concentrations, we will witness a temperature rise considerably beyond the Paris Agreement limits of 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius (2.7-3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) beyond pre-industrial levels by the end of this century.”
Carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide concentrations were all above pre-industrial levels before 1750, when human activities “starting disturbing Earth’s natural equilibrium,” according to the paper.
The data for the study comes from a network that tracks the quantity of greenhouse gases that remain in the atmosphere after some have been absorbed by oceans and the biosphere.
The Geneva-based agency also noted symptoms of a concerning new development: due to deforestation and low humidity in the region, parts of the Amazon rainforest have shifted from being a carbon “sink” that absorbs CO2 to becoming a producer of CO2.
“One of our report’s most stunning findings is that the Amazonian area, which used to be a carbon sink, has now turned into a carbon generator,” Taalas added. “And it’s all due of deforestation.” It’s primarily due to changes in the global local climate. We have lower humidity and fewer rainstorms.”
The results showing the Amazon going from sink to source, according to Oksana Tarasova, chief of the World Meteorological Organization’s atmospheric and environment research division, were a first, but he noted that they came from a specific southeastern section of the Amazon, not the entire rainforest.
Separately, the United Nations climate agency stated Monday that based on official promises made by nations that signed up to the Paris Agreement, the globe could cut emissions by 83-88 percent by 2050 compared to 2019.
Worse, based on official promises so far, emissions in 2030 are expected to be 16 percent higher than in 2010.
“Such an increase, unless reversed swiftly, may result in a temperature rise of nearly 2.7 degrees Celsius (4.9 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century,” the United Nations said.
Experts say 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 halve by 2030 compared to 2010 levels and effectively reach zero by mid-century.
“Overshooting the temperature objectives will result in a destabilized world and everlasting suffering, especially among those who have contributed the least to GHG emissions in the atmosphere,” Patricia Espinosa, the UN’s climate chief, said.
She went on to declare, “We are nothing near where science says we should be.”
Alok Sharma, who will lead the United Nations discussions in Glasgow, said progress had been achieved since the Paris agreement was reached in 2015, when forecasts of existing carbon reduction suggested warming of up to 4 degrees Celsius.
According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the worldwide 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 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels owing to COVID-19 limitations, the 2020 rise was larger than the yearly average over the previous decade, according to WMO.
“Has severe negative ramifications for our everyday life and well-being, for the status of our planet, and for the future of our children and grandchildren,” Taalas warned of a level exceeding 400 parts per million, which was broken in 2015.
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 “had no detectable influence on atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases and their growth rates, but there was a brief drop in new emissions.”