Greenhouse gas levels reach record high

25 Novembre, 2020, 14:00 | Auteur: Therese Cote
  • Levels of carbon dioxide at record highs despite lockdown

Greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere have continued to rise this year, despite the huge decline in movement as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking to journalists, he also voiced optimism at USA president-elect Joe Biden's pledge to return his country to the Paris climate accord, saying he hoped it "might have the domino effect and motivate also some other countries".

But the United Nations agency dashed notions that the lockdowns and other measures to rein in the pandemic could by themselves fix some of the damage of ever-growing greenhouse gas emissions in recent decades.

"The lockdown-related fall in emissions is just a tiny blip on the long-term graph", World Meteorological Organisation chief Petteri Taalas said, according to the SBS. "We need a sustained flattening of the curve".

That's not to stay lockdowns, shuttered workplaces, and reduced travel haven't made a difference: the WMO estimates that Carbon dioxide emissions were reduced by up to 17 percent at some points in the year, and could have dropped by 4.2-7.5 percent over the course of 2020 (we're still waiting for the final figures to come in).

Global data is not yet available for 2020 but the trend of rising concentrations appears to be intact, the WMO said, citing initial readings from its Tasmania and Hawaii stations. The amount of Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is likely to go up again, though not by as much as in previous years - we saw a 2.6 ppm rise from 2018 to 2019, and the one from 2019 to 2020 could be about 0.08-0.23 ppm less than that. Atmospheric levels, or concentrations, are the part of these emissions left over after a series of interactions between the air and wider environment including plant activity, the lithosphere, cryosphere, and the oceans.

"We humans did it without anything, with just with our emissions, and we did it within four years".

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World Meteorological Organization Secretary-General Petteri Taalas during the organisation's latest State of the Climate report earlier this year. The WMO adds that the Earth has registered a 45% increase in radiative forcing (the warming effect of GHGs) since 1990.

"CO2 remains in the atmosphere for centuries", Taalas pointed out, meaning that actions taken this year to curb the spread of a deadly infectious disease are "not a solution for climate change", reported Common Dreams.

'The last time the Earth experienced a comparable concentration of Carbon dioxide was 3-5 million years ago. The second-most prevalent such gas is methane, which accounts for around 16% of total warming.

In 2019, methane levels were at 260 percent of pre-industrial levels, at 1,877 parts per billion.

Previous year also saw a higher than average rise in methane, an especially potent heat-trapping greenhouse gas that remains in the atmosphere for less than a decade.

Concentrations of nitrous oxide, the third major greenhouse gas which is caused largely by agricultural fertilisers, meanwhile stood at 332 parts per billion a year ago, or 123 percent above pre-industrial levels.

Levels of nitrous oxide, which erode the atmosphere's ozone layer and expose humans to harmful ultraviolet rays, also increased in 2019 but at a lower rate than the previous year and on par with the average growth over the last decade.

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