In These Times - April 8, 2021
NOAA’s 2020 findings came after activists and experts responded with alarm to the concentration of atmospheric CO2 surging past 420 PPM for the first time in recorded history over the weekend.
U.S. government scientists warned Wednesday that despite temporary drops in planet-heating emissions due to shutdowns triggered by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, “levels of the two most important anthropogenic greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide and methane, continued their unrelenting rise in 2020.”
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) also said that the global surface average for carbon dioxide (CO2) last year was 412.5 parts per million (PPM), among the highest rates of increase ever documented since the federal agency started keeping records over six decades ago.
At the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, the annual mean was 414.4 ppm in 2020.
The figures likely would have been higher if the pandemic hadn’t happened, according to Pieter Tans, senior scientist at NOAA’s Global Monitoring Lab (GML), which measures carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide from observatories in Alaska, American Samoa, Hawaii, and the South Pole.
“The economic recession was estimated to have reduced carbon emissions by about 7% during 2020,” the agency explained. “Without the economic slowdown, the 2020 increase would have been the highest on record.”
According to NOAA, “Carbon dioxide levels are now higher than at anytime in the past 3.6 million years.”
NOAA’s 2020 findings came after activists and experts responded with alarm to the concentration of atmospheric CO2 surging past 420 PPM for the first time in recorded history over the weekend. Youth climate leader Greta Thunberg of the Fridays for Future movement said that if that data from Hawaii is confirmed, “it is truly groundbreaking to say the least.”
Colm Sweeney, assistant deputy director of the GML, echoed campaigners’ calls for climate action that followed the latest reading.
“Human activity is driving climate change,” Sweeney said. “If we want to mitigate the worst impacts, it’s going to take a deliberate focus on reducing fossil fuels emissions to near zero — and even then we’ll need to look for ways to further remove greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere.” ...
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