Greenhouse gas levels hit record high in 2020 despite pandemic, WMO warns
Geneva, Oct 25 (EFE).- The abundance of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached record levels last year despite a reduction in industrial activity due to the global Covid-19 pandemic, the World Meteorological Organization said in a report Monday.
The United Nations agency said the annual rate of increase in global warming-causing gases in 2020 was higher than the average recorded between 2011-20.
It added that the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere reached 413.2 parts per million in 2020, which was 149% of pre-industrial levels.
The rise in greenhouse gases jeopardizes the targets set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement to keep global temperatures under 1.5 to 2C higher than pre-industrial levels and comes just before world leaders gather in Glasgow to discuss the climate crisis at the COP26 summit.
“The Greenhouse Gas Bulletin contains a stark, scientific message for climate change negotiators at COP26,” said WMO Secretary-General Prof. 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 above pre-industrial levels.
“We are way off track,” he added.
The report pointed out that half of the CO2 emitted by human activity remained in the atmosphere, while the other half was absorbed by oceans, trees and other ecosystems.
Over time, oceans could witness a drop in their ability to absorb CO2, which could precede a large increase in global temperatures.
“Carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for centuries and in the ocean for even longer. The last time the Earth experienced a comparable concentration of CO2 was 3-5 million years ago, when the temperature was 2-3°C warmer and sea level was 10-20 meters higher than now. But there weren’t 7.8 billion people then,” Taalas added.
Aside from CO2, other greenhouse gases methane and nitrous oxide were, respectively, 262% and 123% of the levels in 1750, when human activities began to impact on the Earth’s atmosphere, the WMO said.
COP26 is due to get underway on October 31 and runs until November 12. EFE