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‘No Time to Lose’ as Atmospheric CO2 Hits 411.3 ppm Despite ‘Tiny Blip’ from COVID Lockdowns

Nick Humpries/Castanet

Carbon pollution in the atmosphere reached another record high this year in spite of the “tiny blip” resulting from reduced emissions during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the latest in a series of annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletins released Monday by the World Meteorological Organization.

The UN agency says atmospheric GHGs are now rising at the fastest rate in recorded history.

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The effects of the pandemic lockdowns on travel and other energy-consuming activities will ultimately translate into a 4.2 to 7.5% reduction in emissions this year, The Guardian reports [2]. But “the WMO report said the monthly average CO2 for September at the benchmark station of Mauna Loa in Hawaii was 411.3 parts per million, up from 408.5 ppm in September 2019. The same was seen at Cape Grim in Tasmania, Australia, with a rise to 410.8 ppm from 408.6 ppm in 2019.”

Those numbers came after a “growth spurt” in 2019 drove atmospheric CO2 concentrations up at a faster rate than the average over the last decade, The Guardian says.

“The lockdown-related fall in emissions is just a tiny blip on the long-term graph” when “we need a sustained flattening of the curve,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas. “We breached the global [annual] threshold of 400 ppm 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.”

Carbon dioxide “remains in the atmosphere for centuries,” Taalas added, and “the last time the Earth experienced a comparable concentration was three to five million years ago, when the temperature was 2.0 to 3.0°C warmer and sea level was 10 to 20 metres higher than now.”

And when that happened, “there weren’t 7.7 billion [human] inhabitants” on the planet.

The WMO says atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations are now 50% higher than they were in 1750, before the Industrial Revolution began. CO2 “traps two-thirds of the heat retained on the Earth’s surface by greenhouse gases,” The Guardian says, while methane accounts for 17%.

In his statement, Taalas called for a “complete transformation of our industrial, energy, and transport systems”, noting that “the changes are economically affordable and technically possible and would affect our everyday life only marginally.” While “a growing number of countries and companies have committed themselves to carbon neutrality,” he added, “there is no time to lose.”