Thursday, December 2

The stoppage due to Covid had no impact on atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide


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Another year, another record carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Not even the pandemic, the massive confinements and the global economy slowdown have served to stop the concentration of the gases that are warming the planet and drive climate change. According to the bulletin published this Monday by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the annual rate of increase in 2020 was higher than the 2011-2020 average, and the trend continues in 2021.

Carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse gas, is capable of remaining in the atmosphere for centuries. So even though there was a temporary reduction in new emissions in 2020, the concentration has continued to increase. «The economic slowdown due to Covid-19 had no discernible impact in atmospheric levels and their growth rates ”, says the bulletin. And as long as emissions continue, the global temperature will continue to rise. In the long run, this implies an increase in extreme weather events, more droughts, more torrential rains, more heat waves or rising sea levels and acidification of the oceans.

Specifically, the concentration of carbon dioxide reached in 2020 413.2 parts per million. It is 149% above pre-industrial levels. “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 the sea level was 10-20 meters higher than now,” he said. said WMO Secretary General Petteri Taalas.

There is also concern that the capacity of the Earth and the oceans to absorb CO2 is beginning to decline, further accelerating the atmospheric concentration. “Such changes are already happening,” says the report, citing the example of the Amazon, where some areas affected by fires increased by climate change have gone from capturing carbon dioxide to emitting it.

The report comes a week before the UN Climate Summit begins (COP26) to be held in Glasgow, where countries should commit to increasing their emissions cuts to try to keep the planet at 1.5ºC of global warming or, at least, below 2º. Today the planet is already at 1.1º warming. “The Greenhouse Gas Bulletin contains a tough scientific message for climate change negotiators at COP26. At the current rate of increase in greenhouse gas concentrations, we will see a rise in temperature at the end of this century well above the objectives of the Paris Agreement »says Taalas. “We are very far from the track.”

Other gases

But in addition, the bulletin offers data on the following two greenhouse gases with the greatest impact: methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O), which have followed the same trail than carbon dioxide. Methane remains in the atmosphere for about a decade and when it comes from human activity it is mainly due to agriculture and livestock. The increase from 2019 to 2020 was higher than that from 2018 to 2019 and also higher than the average annual growth rate of the last decade. Its levels in the atmosphere are already 262% higher than in 1750.

Regarding nitrous oxide, the concentration is 123% higher than that of pre-industrial levels. The globally averaged mole fraction of N2O in 2020 reached 333.2 ppb, representing a 1.2 ppb increase over 2019. The annual increase from 2019 to 2020 was greater than the increase from 2018 to 2019 and also higher than the average growth rate of the last decade.

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