Atmospheric Carbon Levels Reach 3 Million Year High Ahead of COP26

Atmospheric Carbon Levels Reach 3 Million Year High

Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have hit a three-million-year high, according to a World Meteorological Organization (WMO) report published today. Despite a brief dip in emissions in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the overall trend of increasing emissions continues, indicating last year’s dip had little to no impact on the total amount of GHGs in the atmosphere.

Why This Matters

WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas explained:

The Greenhouse Gas Bulletin contains a stark, scientific message for climate change negotiators at COP26. 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.

Still, some massively emitting countries have refrained from updating and increasing their climate goals, a threat to halting global temperature rise.

WMO: Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, October 25, 2021.

Hot in Glasgow

The report analyzed data from a network that tracks atmospheric carbon levels. It found current levels of GHGs in the atmosphere 149% higher than pre-industrial levels. Also alarming, the study points out the loss of some significant carbon sinks, including parts of the Amazon that have switched from carbon sequestering to carbon emitting due to deforestation. But, the most worrying finding is that by 2030 emissions are projected to rise by 16% above those in 2010 if countries don’t increase their climate commitments.

Next week's COP26 is a pressing moment for countries to do just that, but some are resisting making bolder commitments. This week, China announced new measures to decarbonize but refrained from updating its current pledge. Saudi Arabia, a heavily oil-dependent nation, also announced plans to reach net zero by 2060 after being outed last week for urging UN climate scientists to water down the role of fossil fuels in an upcoming climate report.

UN Environment Programme: A world of climate promises not yet delivered - #EmissionsGap, October 26, 2021.

WW0: All Roads Lead to Glasgow, April 28, 2021.