by Alison Kentish Inter Press Service

As the international community gathers for COP26 widely considered the most important climate  conference since the 2015  gathering which resulted in  the Paris Climate Agreement,  the World Meteorological  Organization (WMO) is  reporting that despite global  hits in trade and travel by the  COVID-19 pandemic, the  concentration of greenhouse  gases in the atmosphere reached  a new high in 2020. 

The United Nations Agency  issued its annual Greenhouse  Gas Bulletin this week. It is the seventeenth bulletin, and  it concludes that from 1990 to  2020, heating of the earth by  greenhouse gases spiked by 47  per cent, with carbon dioxide  responsible for almost 80 per  cent of this hike. 

“Concentration of carbon  dioxide (CO2), the most  important greenhouse gas,  reached 413.2 parts per million  in 2020 and is 149 per cent  of the pre-industrial level,”  the report stated, adding that  “the economic slowdown from  COVID-19 did not have any  discernible impact on the  atmospheric levels of greenhouse  gases and their growth rates,  although there was a temporary  decline in new emissions.” “Roughly half of the CO2  

emitted by human activities  today remains in the atmosphere.  The other half is taken up by  oceans and land ecosystems,” it  added, warning that “the ability  of land ecosystems and oceans  to act as “sinks” may become  less effective in future, thus  reducing their ability to absorb  carbon dioxide and act as a  buffer against larger temperature  increase.” 

The statistics are crucial ahead  of next week’s climate talks.  Countries are being urged to  commit to increasingly ambitious  targets for reducing greenhouse  gas emissions. 

“It is clear from the science  that the concentration of greenhouse gases is driving  climate change and if we are able to mitigate those emissions and  phase out the negative trend in  climate, that should be our aim,”  said Petteri Taalas. 

“Some features will continue  for hundreds of years like the  melting of glaciers and sea-level  rise as we already have such a  high concentration of carbon  dioxide and this problem will  not go away soon……..we have  to start dealing with emissions  in this decade. We cannot wait,  otherwise, we will lose the Paris  targets. The progress has been too  slow,” Taalas added. 

The WMO’s chief of atmospheric and environment  research division Oksana Tarasova says climate commitments by nations must  translate into action. 

“There is no way around it.  We need to reduce emissions as  fast as possible. When countries  are making commitments to be  carbon neutral, the atmosphere  gives us a very clear signal that  our commitments should be  converted into something that  we can see in the atmosphere. If  we do not see at least a decrease  in the growth rate of the major  greenhouse gases, we cannot  declare success in the climate  agenda,” she said. 

The WMO greenhouse gas bulletin coincides with  the release this week of the  United Nations Climate Office’s  updated findings on Nationally  Determined Contributions  (NDCs), which are countries’  climate action plans, including  goals to reduce greenhouse gas  emissions. 

They concluded that the world is ‘nowhere near’ where it  needs to be to tackle the climate  crisis. Executive Secretary of  the United Nations Framework  Convention on Climate Change  Patricia Espinosa called for an  ‘urgent redoubling of climate  efforts’ to ensure that global  temperatures do not soar past the  goals of the Paris Agreement. “Overshooting the  

temperature goals will lead to a  destabilized world and endless  suffering, especially among those  who have contributed the least  to the GHG emissions in the  atmosphere,” she said. 

“This updated report, unfortunately, confirms the  trend already indicated in the  full Synthesis Report, which is  that we are nowhere near where  science says we should be.” 

For WMO officials, a timely,  ‘stark scientific message’ is being  sent to the world. 

“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 degrees Celsius above  pre-industrial levels,” WMO  Secretary-General Taalas said. “We are way off track.”



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