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Greenhouse gas levels hit record high in 2020: UN report

Updated: Dec 17, 2021

UN weather agency warns the world is ‘way off track on reaching goals for capping rising temperatures.

In 2020, the greenhouse concentrations in the atmosphere hit a record high the United Nation’s weather agency reported in a sharp warning about the worsening global warming. In the latest annual report on heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) showed that carbon dioxide levels surged to 413.2 parts per million in 2020 which is increasing at an extremely fast rate than the annual average over the last decade, despite a temporary dip in emissions during COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns.

The gases responsible for warming the planet and triggering extreme weather events like heatwaves and intense rainfalls are concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. These gases concentration is above levels of the pre-industrial era before 1750 when human activities started to disrupt the Earth's natural equilibrium.

WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas warned the current rate of increase in heat-trapping gases would result in temperature rises “far in excess” of 1.5C (2.7F) above the pre-industrial average this century – the target set out by in the landmark 2015 Paris climate agreement.

Many environmental activists, policymakers, and scientists think that the October 31-November 12 event marks an important and even crucial opportunity for firm commitments to the targets set out in the 2015 Paris climate accord. Representatives from nearly 200 countries will attend the summit.

‘No time to lose’

The WMO report drew on information based on a network that monitors the amount of greenhouse gases that remain in the atmosphere after some quantities are absorbed by oceans and the biosphere.

The 2020 increase in the global average of carbon dioxide concentrations came despite a 5.6 percent drop in carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels due to COVID-19 restrictions, it said.

Petteri Taalas said "we are way off track, We need to revisit our industrial, energy, and transport systems and whole way of life,” he added, before calling for a dramatic increase in commitments at the upcoming COP26 UN climate change conference in Glasgow, Scotland. Level above 400 parts per million has major negative repercussions for our daily lives and wellbeing, for the state of our planet and for the future of our children and grandchildren. We need to revisit our industrial, energy, and transport systems and whole way of life. The needed changes are economically affordable and technically possible. There is no time to lose."

The report also added that early readings showed levels of carbon dioxide continued to rise higher in 2021, the gas which is majorly responsible for global warming.

Even if deep emissions cuts are made now, climate scientists say the warming trend will remain intact because past carbon dioxide emissions stay in the atmosphere for centuries.



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