CO2 Levels This Year '50% Higher Than 18th Century'

Desk Report

Published: 09 Jan 2021, 09:56 am

This is despite the unprecedented decline in greenhouse gas emissions due to the pandemic in 2020.

In the atmosphere, carbon dioxide levels will hit levels 50 percent higher this year than before the industrial revolution because of manmade pollution, the Met Office of Britain projected on Friday.

The average annual CO2 concentration measured at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii is expected to be approximately 2.29 parts per million (ppm) higher in 2021 than in 2020.

It reported that at some point between April and June, CO2 concentrations would reach 417 ppm—50 percent higher than the 278 ppm present in the late 18th century when the industrial age started.

This is despite an unprecedented fall in greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 because of the pandemic. 

"Since CO2 stays in the atmosphere for a very long time, each year's emissions add to those from previous years and cause the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere to keep increasing," said Richard Betts, lead producer of the Met Office's annual CO2 forecast.

"Although the Covid-19 pandemic meant that less CO2 was emitted worldwide in 2020 than in previous years, that still added to the ongoing build up in the atmosphere."

Mauna Loa has been continuously monitoring atmospheric CO2 levels -- which fluctuate according to season but continue to climb annually -- since 1958.

In order to keep the Paris climate agreement's temperature targets in play, the United Nations says emissions from oil, food processing, transport and industry must drop by more than 7 percent per year over the next decade.

The 2015 agreement requires countries to restrict global warming to "well below" 2 ° C above pre-industrial levels and, if at all possible, to 1.5 ° C.

Earth is still beset by severe weather events such as floods, droughts and tropical storms supercharged by rising sea levels with just over 1 ° C of warming so far.

Since the industrial revolution began, the Met Office said it took about 200 years for CO2 concentrations to rise 25 percent.

"But now just 30 years later we are approaching a 50% increase," said Betts.

"Reversing this trend and slowing the atmospheric CO2 rise will need global emissions to reduce, and bringing them to a halt will need global emissions to be brought down to net zero."

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