Let´s go back to 2019, before the pandemic.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the atmosphere hit a new record of 410.5 parts per million in 2019 and will likely rise this year despite a minor cut in emissions due to COVID-19 lockdowns, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said Monday.
CO2 is a key greenhouse gas that traps heat in the atmosphere and contribute to climate change, and it has risen by nearly 50% since pre-industrial times, said the WMO in its annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin.
”The CO2 which we have now in the atmosphere is accumulated since 1750,” Oksana Tarasova, WMO’s head of Atmospheric and Environment Research Division, said at a news conference in Geneva.
”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 lead us to this global level of 410.”
Due to the pandemic, the industrial slowdown has not curbed record levels of greenhouse gases trapping heat in the atmosphere, increasing temperatures, and driving more extreme weather, ice melt, sea-level rise, and ocean acidification, according to the WMO report.
Lockdowns have cut emissions of many pollutants and greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.
But any impact on CO2 concentrations from the cumulative past and current emissions is no more significant than the typical year to year fluctuations in the carbon cycle and the high natural variability in carbon sinks like vegetation.
The rise in carbon dioxide levels has continued in 2020.
”Since 1990, there has been a 45% increase in total radiative forcing – the warming effect on the climate – by long-lived greenhouse gases, with CO2 accounting for four-fifths of this,” said the report.
WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said: ”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 were not 7.7 billion inhabitants.
Preliminary estimates indicate a reduction in the annual global emission between 4.2% and 7.5%.
Globally, an emissions reduction on this scale will not cause atmospheric CO2 to go down, said the report.
CO2 will continue to go up at a slightly reduced pace (0.08-0.23 ppm per year lower).
The increase in CO2 from 2018 to 2019 was more extensive than that observed from 2017 to 2018 and also larger than the average over the last decade.
The figure represented a balance of fluxes in the atmosphere, the oceans, and the land biosphere said the WMO.
Much of what you see online from those who question human-caused global warming comes in the form of opinion articles – op-eds – usually not written by a scientist and expressing an opinion not affiliated with that publication’s editorial board. So watch for that, and watch for the authors’ affiliations (often, you can easily see their political agenda). What we’re talking about here is not opinion. It’s data, gathered by scientists at Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, which has been monitoring the atmosphere and collecting data related to atmospheric change since the 1950s. In this world’s-longest data set, the highest carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration in Earth’s atmosphere yet measured was recorded last month (May 2019). The data were announced on June 4, 2019.
An increase in carbon dioxide – CO2 – contributes to global warming, according to climate scientists. The 2019 peak value in May 2019 was 3.5 ppm higher than the 411.2 ppm peak in May 2018 and marks the second-highest annual jump on record.
NOAA said in its annoucement:
Atmospheric carbon dioxide continued its rapid rise in 2019, with the average for May peaking at 414.7 parts per million (ppm). That’s not only the highest seasonal peak recorded in 61 years of observations on top of Hawaii’s largest volcano, but also the highest level in human history and higher than at any point in millions of years.
CO2 Emissions Will Break Another Record in 2019
Global carbon emissions are expected to hit an all-time high in 2019, scientists say, smashing a previous record set in 2018.
By the end of the year, emissions from industrial activities and the burning of fossil fuels will pump an estimated 36.8 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. And total carbon emissions from all human activities, including agriculture and land use, will likely cap off at about 43.1 billion tons.
The estimates were released last night in a new report from the Global Carbon Project, an international research consortium dedicated to tracking the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
The findings—along with recommendations for reversing the growth in global carbon output—were presented in three separate papers published in various journals. They’ll also be shown today at this year’s United Nations climate talks in Madrid.
There is some good news. The authors expect a substantial slowdown in worldwide fossil fuels emissions for this year. Emissions from coal, oil and natural gas expanded by about 2% globally in 2018. For all of 2019, they predict an expansion of just 0.6%.
Part of the slowdown can be attributed to declines in coal use in the U.S. and much of Europe, and lower-than-expected growth from other key coal consumers this year.
“We’re estimating a decline of 10% this year” for the U.S., said the Global Carbon Project’s executive director, Pep Canadell, “well above previous decline levels.”
The European Union will have registered coal emission declines along the same lines as the United States by year’s end, said Canadell, while India and China both showed strong increases, though less rapidly than in the past.
The Global Carbon Project’s estimate of a 0.6% increase in the world’s fossil fuel emissions for 2019 represents a “preliminary” estimate, he said, “but this is about a third of the growth rates we’ve seen of the previous years, so it is actually a quite significant slowdown.”
Still, it’s too early to tell if the slowing will continue in the long term. Other recent short-term trends have sparked temporary optimism, only to quickly reverse themselves.
Between 2014 and 2016, global carbon emissions remained mostly flat, raising hopes the world’s carbon output may have peaked for good. But emissions began to rise again in 2017 and have continued growing through this year.
And with every year that emissions continue to rise, international climate goals outlined in the Paris Agreement become a little harder to reach. Just last week, a grim report from the U.N. Environment Programme warned that carbon dioxide emissions must fall by 25% over the next decade to keep the global temperatures within 2 degrees Celsius of their preindustrial levels (Climatewire, Nov. 26).
To reach a more ambitious target of 1.5 C, emissions would need to fall by 55%.
In a briefing yesterday to reporters, Canadell said his group agrees with recent conclusions drawn by the U.N. Environment Programme that industrial greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere are still rising far too quickly for international efforts to succeed at limiting global warming to 1.5 C.
“The single most import result is that we have yet another year of growth in CO2 emissions coming from all human activities,” Canadell said of his team’s research. “I think that it is very important to acknowledge at this moment that every single additional year of emissions growth makes it significantly harder to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement.”
As if to underscore this view, the World Meteorological Organization issued a “provisional statement” on 2019 climate and weather conditions meant to be seen by delegates gathered in Madrid for the latest negotiations around the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.
WMO says that its data indicates that average global temperatures for 2019 were about 1.1 C above those compared with the preindustrial age. University of Tasmania professor Pete Strutton said that WMO data proving high concentrations of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere shows that drastic cuts in CO2 output will no longer be enough to prevent warming by 3 C.
“There is no way for Earth to stay below 3 C without large-scale emissions capture and storage, in addition to massive emissions reduction,” said Strutton. “Governments and individuals need to act swiftly.”
Carbon dioxide levels continue at record levels, despite COVID-19 lockdown
Geneva, 23 November 2020 (WMO) – The industrial slowdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic has not curbed record levels of greenhouse gases which are trapping heat in the atmosphere, increasing temperatures and driving more extreme weather, ice melt, sea-level rise and ocean acidification, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
The lockdown has cut emissions of many pollutants and greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. But any impact on CO2 concentrations – the result of cumulative past and current emissions – is in fact no bigger than the normal year to year fluctuations in the carbon cycle and the high natural variability in carbon sinks like vegetation.
Carbon dioxide levels saw another growth spurt in 2019 and the annual global average breached the significant threshold of 410 parts per million, according to the WMO Greenhouse Gas Bulletin. The rise has continued in 2020. Since 1990, there has been a 45% increase in total radiative forcing – the warming effect on the climate – by long-lived greenhouse gases, with CO2 accounting for four fifths of this.
“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 7.7 billion inhabitants,” said WMO Secretary-General Professor Petteri Taalas.
“We breached the global threshold of 400 parts per million in 2015. And just four years later, we crossed 410 ppm. Such a rate of increase has never been seen in the history of our records. The lockdown-related fall in emissions is just a tiny blip on the long-term graph. We need a sustained flattening of the curve,” said Prof Taalas.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is not a solution for climate change. However, it does provide us with a platform for more sustained and ambitious climate action to reduce emissions to net zero through a complete transformation of our industrial, energy and transport systems. The needed changes are economically affordable and technically possible and would affect our everyday life only marginally. It is to be welcomed that a growing number of countries and companies have committed themselves to carbon neutrality,” he said. “There is no time to lose.”
The Global Carbon Project estimated that during the most intense period of the shutdown, daily CO2 emissions may have been reduced by up to 17% globally due to the confinement of the population. As the duration and severity of confinement measures remain unclear, the prediction of the total annual emission reduction over 2020 is very uncertain.
Preliminary estimates indicate a reduction in the annual global emission between 4.2% and 7.5%. At the global scale, an emissions reduction this scale will not cause atmospheric CO2 to go down. CO2 will continue to go up, though at a slightly reduced pace (0.08-0.23 ppm per year lower). This falls well within the 1 ppm natural inter-annual variability. This means that on the short-term the impact of the COVID-19 confinements cannot be distinguished from natural variability, according to the Bulletin.
New records in 2019
The Greenhouse Gas Bulletin – one of WMO’s flagship reports – provides details on atmospheric abundance of the main long-lived greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide.
The Bulletin is based on observations and measurements from WMO’s Global Atmosphere Watch and partner networks, which includes atmospheric monitoring stations in remote Polar regions, high mountains and tropical islands. These stations have continued to function despite COVID-19 restrictions hampering resupplies and rotation of staff in often harsh and isolated locations.
Carbon dioxide is the single most important long-lived greenhouse gas in the atmosphere related to human activities, contributing about two thirds of the radiative forcing. The annual globally averaged level of carbon dioxide was about 410.5 parts per million (ppm) in 2019, up from 407.9 parts ppm in 2018, having crossed the 400 parts per million benchmark in 2015. The increase in CO2 from 2018 to 2019 was larger than that observed from 2017 to 2018 and also larger than the average over the last decade.
Emissions from combustion of fossil fuels and cement production, deforestation and other land-use change pushed 2019 atmospheric CO2 to 148% of the pre-industrial level of 278 ppm, which represented a balance of fluxes among the atmosphere, the oceans and the land biosphere. During last decade about 44% of CO2 remained in the atmosphere, while 23% was absorbed by the ocean and 29% by land, with 4% unattributed.
The Greenhouse Gas Bulletin is based on global average figures for 2019. Individual stations have shown that the upward trend continues in 2020. Monthly Average CO2 concentrations at the benchmark station of Mauna Loa, Hawaii, were 411.29 ppm in September 2020, up from 408.54 ppm in September 2019. At Cape Grim in Tasmania (Australia), the respective figures were 410.8 ppm in September 2020, up from 408.58 ppm in 2019.
Methane, a powerful greenhouse gas which remains in the atmosphere for less than a decade, was 260% of pre-industrial levels in 2019 at 1 877 parts per billion. The increase from 2018 to 2019 was slightly lower than that observed from 2017 to 2018 but still higher than the average over the last decade.
Methane contributes about 16% of the radiative forcing by long-lived greenhouse gases. Approximately 40% of methane is emitted into the atmosphere by natural sources (e.g., wetlands and termites), and about 60% comes from anthropogenic sources (e.g., ruminants, rice agriculture, fossil fuel exploitation, landfills and biomass burning).
Nitrous Oxide, which is both a greenhouse gas and ozone depleting chemical, reached 332.0 parts per billion in 2019, or 123% above pre-industrial levels. The increase from 2018 to 2019 was also lower than that observed from 2017 to 2018 and practically equal to the average growth rate over the past 10 years.
Several other gases are also presented in the Bulletin, including the ozone depleting substances regulated under the Montreal protocol.