UN: Greenhouse Gases Hit New Record 10/25 06:00
The World Meteorological Organization reported Monday that greenhouse gas
concentrations hit a new record high last year and increased at a faster rate
than the annual average for the last decade despite a temporary reduction
during pandemic-related lockdowns.
GENEVA (AP) -- The World Meteorological Organization reported Monday that
greenhouse gas concentrations hit a new record high last year and increased at
a faster rate than the annual average for the last decade despite a temporary
reduction during pandemic-related lockdowns.
In its annual report on heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere, the U.N.
weather agency also pointed to signs of a worrying new development: Parts of
the Amazon rainforest have gone from being a carbon "sink" that sucks carbon
dioxide from the air to a source of CO2 due to deforestation and reduced
humidity in the region, it said.
The findings come as WMO, in its annual report on heat-trapping gases in the
atmosphere, said concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide
were all above levels in the pre-industrial era before 1750, when human
activities "started disrupting Earth's natural equilibrium."
The report's release came days before the start of a U.N. climate change
conference in Glasgow, Scotland. Many environmental activists, policymakers and
scientists say the Oct. 31-Nov. 12 event, known as COP26 for short, marks an
important and even crucial opportunity for concrete commitments to the targets
set out in the 2015 Paris climate accord.
"The Greenhouse Gas Bulletin contains a stark, scientific message for
climate change negotiators at COP26," World Meteorological Organization
Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said of his agency's report. "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," Taalas said.
The report draws on information collected by a network that monitors the
amount of greenhouse gases that remain in the atmosphere after some quantities
are absorbed by oceans and the biosphere.
"One of the striking messages from our report is that the Amazonian region,
which used to be a sink of carbon, has become a source of carbon dioxide,"
Taalas said. "And that's because of deforestation. It's because of changes of
the global local climate, especially. We have less humidity and less rainfall."
Oksana Tarasova, chief of WMO's atmospheric and environment research
division, said the results showing the Amazon going from sink to source were a
first, but he noted they were from a specific southeastern portion of the
Amazon, not the entire rainforest.
The global average of carbon dioxide concentrations hit a new high of 413.2
parts per million last year, according to the WMO report. The 2020 increase was
higher than the annual average over the last decade despite a 5.6% drop in
carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels due to COVID-19 restrictions, WMO
Taalas said a level above 400 parts per million -- which was breached in
2015 -- "has major negative repercussions for our daily lives and well-being,
for the state of our planet and for the future of our children and
Human-incurred carbon dioxide emissions, which result mostly from burning
fossil fuels like oil and gas or from cement production, amount to about
two-thirds of the warming effect on the climate. WMO said overall, an economic
retreat last year because of the pandemic "did not have any discernible impact
on the atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases and their growth rates, although
there was a temporary decline in new emissions."