Although the COVID-19 pandemic brought much of the world to a halt, last year saw new record-high greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere.
The World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO) most recent Greenhouse Gas Bulletin reported record-high increases of climate-heating gases like carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. Up to 66 per cent of global heating is caused by the burning of oil, gas, and coal.
While the pandemic did result in a decrease of carbon dioxide emissions from some sources, the billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere meant this decrease made very little difference. WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas says current emissions leave us “way off track” to meet emissions-reducing goals established by the Paris Agreement.
“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 C above preindustrial levels,” explained Mr Taalas.
The earth’s natural ecosystems and oceans absorb roughly half of human-made emissions. However, rising carbon output means it may be more necessary than ever to seek out other means of reducing emissions and moving towards more carbon neutral goals.
“This is more than just a chemical formula and figures on a graph. It has major negative repercussions for our daily lives and wellbeing, and for the future of our children and grandchildren,” Mr Taalas said.
According to WMO’s findings, Earth has not experienced such a high concentration of carbon in its atmosphere in roughly three million years. At that time, the average global temperature was almost three degrees warmer than today. A world population of almost eight billion people also adds to the strain.
“We need to transform our commitment into action that will have an impact on the gases that drive climate change. We need to revisit our industrial, energy and transport systems and whole way of life,” Mr Taalas explained.
It is hoped that the upcoming COP26 climate summit will encourage countries across the world to commit to carbon neutral targets.