Carbon dioxide levels hit new record
by UN News, World Meteorological Organization
23 November 2020
Levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere hit a new record of 410.5 parts per million in 2019, and are expected to keep rising this year, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said in its annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin on Monday.
“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”, WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said in a statement.
Oksana Tarasova, WMO Chief of Atmospheric and Environment Research Division, told a news conference in Geneva that although it looked like the pandemic had brought the world to a standstill, carbon emissions had continued almost unabated because lockdowns only reduced mobility, not overall energy consumption.
She compared to the carbon levels in the atmosphere to a bathtub that was filling up more and more every year, and even a single drop of carbon would cause the level to rise. The COVID-related lockdowns were equivalent to just slightly reducing the flow from the tap, she said.
“The CO2 which we have now in the atmosphere is accumulated since 1750, so it's every single bit which we put in the atmosphere since that time that 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 actually leads us to this global level of 410”, Dr. Tarasova said.
CO2 levels rose by 2.6 ppm in 2019, faster than the average rate for the last ten years, which was 2.37 ppm, and are now 48 per cent higher than the pre-industrial level.
Professor Taalas said that in order to meet the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement, in which governments pledged to try to stop temperatures rising by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the world needed to switch from coal, oil and gas-fired energy towards solar, wind, hydropower and nuclear power, as well as adopting less-polluting modes of transport, including electric vehicles, biofuels, hydrogen and bicycles.
He said it was good news that a growing number of countries had committed to reaching carbon neutrality by 2050, which was required to meet the 1.5 degree target.
“So far we have 50 per cent of the global emissions which are coming from China, European Union and Japan and South Korea, and also 50 per cent of the global GDP behind this”, he declared.
“And if the US with the Biden administration will have the same target that would mean we would have the majority of our emissions and also the majority of the global economy behind such a target. And we should bend this emissions growth curve in the coming five years, and then we should start seeing drops of the emissions of the order of six per cent per year until 2050 to reach that target.”
He said US President-elect Joe Biden had indicated during his election campaign that he would initiate a big financial stimulus for carbon-friendly technologies.
“We are talking about a couple of trillion. And then he has indicated that he would like to have the same aim as many others, to become carbon neutral by 2050, and of course that would be good news globally, and it might have the domino effect that it might motivate also some other countries to join this kind of movement.”
* Scientists calculate that emissions must fall by half by 2030 to give a good chance of limiting global heating to 1.5C, beyond which hundreds of millions of people will face more heatwaves, droughts, floods and poverty: http://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/
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The impacts of climate change are already devastating lives and livelihoods
by IFRC Secretary General Jagan Chapagain
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)
The impacts of climate change are already devastating lives and livelihoods every year, and they will only get worse without immediate and determined action. The World Disasters Report 2020 analyses climate disaster trends and shows how we can tackle the humanitarian impacts of the climate crisis together.
Global efforts to tackle climate change are currently failing to protect the people who are most at risk, according to new analysis by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
IFRC’s World Disasters Report 2020: Come Heat or High Water shows that the countries most affected by climate-related disasters receive only a fraction of the funding that is available for climate change adaptation and thus struggle to protect people from the aggravating effects of climate change.IFRC’s Secretary General Jagan Chapagain said: “Our first responsibility is to protect communities that are most exposed and vulnerable to climate risks.
“However, our research demonstrates that the world is collectively failing to do this. There is a clear disconnection between where the climate risk is greatest and where climate adaptation funding goes. This disconnection could very well cost lives.”
The failure to protect the people most vulnerable to climate change is especially alarming given the steady increase in the number of climate and weather-related disasters. According to the World Disasters Report, the average number of climate and weather-related disasters per decade has increased nearly 35 per cent since the 1990s.
Over the past decade, 83 per cent of all disasters were caused by extreme weather and climate-related events such as floods, storms, and heatwaves. Together, these disasters killed more than 410,000 people and affected a staggering 1.7 billion people.
The World Disasters Report also argues that the massive stimulus packages that are currently being developed around the world in response to the COVID-19 pandemic are an opportunity to address and reduce climate vulnerability. A recovery that protects people and the planet would not only help to reduce today’s risks but would also make communities safer and more resilient to future disasters.
Smart financing – with a focus on early warning and anticipatory action to reduce risks and prevent disasters before they happen – and risk reduction measures would both play a major role in protecting the most exposed communities.
Mr Chapagain said: “Climate adaptation work can’t take a back seat while the world is preoccupied with the pandemic: the two crises have to be tackled together.
“These disasters are already on the doorstep in every country around the world. We must significantly scale up investment in climate smart actions that strengthens risk reduction and preparedness, alongside climate-smart laws and policies.
“With challenges like these, international solidarity is not only a moral responsibility, but also the smart thing to do. Investing in resilience in the most vulnerable places is more cost-effective than to accept continued increases in the cost of humanitarian response, and contributes to a safer, more prosperous and sustainable world for everyone.”
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