NEW DELHI: Carbon dioxide (CO2) levels hit new highs last year and are expected to keep growing in 2020, despite Covid-19-related restrictions that forced a global industrial slowdown.
The alarming patterns were published on Monday by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), saying levels of CO2 in the atmosphere hit a new record of 410.5 parts per million in 2019 and are expected to keep rising this year.
“We breached the global threshold of 400 parts per million in 2015. And just four years later, we have 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.
Taalas said reduced activity associated with lockdowns is expected to cut carbon emissions by 4-7 per cent this year.
Oksana Tarasova, WMO chief of atmospheric and environment research division, said 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.
“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 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,” said Tarasova.
Taalas said 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.
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.