Heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached another record last year, evidence there was no lasting impact from a drop in pollution when COVID-19 slowed the global economy, a report out Monday showed.
That trend has continued in 2021, according to the United Nations’ World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Greenhouse Gas Bulletin.
The report furthers the U.N.’s warning that global powers remain off pace to meet emissions-cutting goals as soon as the end of the decade and it hits just days ahead of the start of an ambitious U.N. climate-change conference in Glasgow, known as COP26.
The conference, expected to push for developed nation financial support to help developing nations fight against climate change, will also be seeking firm commitments to the emissions targets set out in the voluntary 2015 Paris climate accord.
“The Greenhouse Gas Bulletin contains a stark, scientific message for climate change negotiators at COP26,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said. “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 (2.7-3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.”
Temperature rises, say scientists, are seen contributing to respiratory illness, warming oceans that erode costs and more severe storms.
According to Monday’s report, concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide were all above levels in the pre-industrial era before 1750, when human activities “started disrupting Earth’s natural equilibrium.”
Manmade carbon dioxide emissions, the product of burning fossil fuels like oilWBS00 and gasNG00 or from cement production for the construction industry, amount to about two-thirds of global warming. WMO said an economic decline last year because of the pandemic “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.”
The report also revealed that parts of the Amazonian region have stopped being a beneficial “sink” for carbon to become a source of carbon dioxide, which the WMO links to deforestation.
The U.N. climate division also released on Monday a separate update on country emissions pledges as the Glasgow summit looms. Based on the formal commitments made by countries that signed up in Paris, the world could reduce its emissions by 83%-88% by 2050 compared with 2019, not 100%.
And efforts to date show that many nations who set a near-term target of 50% emissions reduction by 2030 — the U.S. has set such a target — will be producing emissions in 2030 at 16% higher than in 2010, the U.N. says, signaling that pledges are not going far enough.
“Such an increase, unless changed quickly, may lead to a temperature rise of about 2.7 Celsius by the end of the century,” the U.N. said. Without any Paris pledges, global temperature gains were expected to hit up to 4 Celsius.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.