Greenhouse gas concentrations are at record levels and continue to increase and emissions are heading towards the pre-pandemic Covid 19 levels after a temporary decline caused by the lockdown and economic slowdown.
Covid-19 pandemic disrupted many aspects of lives in 2020 as well as climate change continued unabated, according to a new multi-agency report – United in Science 2020- from leading organizations. The World Meteorological Organization compiled the report. Global Carbon Project, UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, UN Environment Programme and the Met Office contributed to the report.
United Nations Secretary General António Guterres said that COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted lives worldwide. At the same time, the heating of the planet and climate disruption has continued apace, he added.
“Record heat, ice loss, wildfires, floods and droughts continue to worsen, affecting communities, nations and economies around the world. Ever before has it been so clear that we need long term, inclusive, clean transitions to tackle the climate crisis and achieve sustainable development. We must turn the recovery from the pandemic into a real opportunity to build a better future,” he said.
The UN Chief said that governments need consistent and solid science, backed by strong collaboration of scientific institutions and academia, to underpin policy decisions that can tackle the greatest challenges of our time.
World Meteorological Organization Secretary General Petteri Taalas said that Greenhouse gas concentrations – which are already at their highest levels in 3 million years – have continue to rise, reaching new record highs this year.
Greenhouse Gas Concentrations
Carbon dioxide concentrations showed no signs of peaking and continued to increase to new records. Benchmark stations in the WMO Global Atmosphere Watch (GAW) network reported CO2 concentrations above 410 parts per million (ppm) during the first half of 2020, with Mauna Loa (Hawaii) and Cape Grim (Tasmania) at 414.38 ppm and 410.04 ppm, respectively, in July 2020, up from 411.74 ppm and 407.83 ppm in July 2019.
Sustained reductions in emissions to net zero are necessary to stabilize climate change.
Global Fossil CO2emissions
The Covid -19 policies is likely to reduce Carbon dioxide emissions in 2020 by an estimated four per cent to seven per cent in 2020.
During peak lockdown in early April 2020, the daily global fossil CO2 emissions dropped by an unprecedented 17 per cent compared to 2019. By early June 2020, global daily fossil CO2 emissions had mostly returned to within 5% (1%–8% range) below 2019 levels, which reached a new record of 36.7 Gigatonnes (Gt) last year, 2% higher than at the start of climate change negotiations in 1990.
Global methane emissions from human activities continued to increase over the past decade. Current emissions of carbon dioxide and methane are not compatible with emissions pathways consistent with the targets of the Paris Agreement.
The Emissions Gap Report 2019 showed that the cuts in global emissions required per year from 2020 to 2030 are close to 3% for a 2 °C target and more than 7% per year on average for the 1.5 °C goal of the Paris Agreement.
Looking beyond the 2030 timeframe, new technological solutions and gradual change in consumption patterns are needed at all levels. Both technically and economically feasible solutions already exist.
State of Global Climate
The average global temperature for the 2016–2020 periods is expected to be the warmest on record. This is going to be about 1.1 °C above 1850-1900, a reference period for temperature change since pre-industrial times and 0.24°C warmer than the global average temperature for 2011-2015.
The report said that the chance of at least one year exceeding 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels is 24 per cent between 2020-2024. It bis also estimated that one or more months in the next five years will be at least 1.5 °C warmer than pre-industrial levels.
Ocean and Cryosphere
Life-sustaining systems from the top of the mountains to the depths of the oceans have been affected. Ice sheets and glaciers worldwide have lost mass. Arctic sea ice extent decreased between 1979 and 2018. Increasing wildfire and abrupt permafrost thaw, as well as changes in Arctic and mountain hydrology, have altered the frequency and intensity of ecosystem disturbances.
Ocean has warmed unabated since 1970 and has taken up more than 90 per cent of the excess heat in the climate system. Marine heat waves doubled in frequency and have become longer lasting, more intense and more extensive, resulting in large-scale coral bleaching events. Marine species have also undergone shifts in geographical range and seasonal activities because of ocean warming, oxygen loss and sea-ice change.
Climate and Water Resources
The report says that the number of people at risk of floods will increase from its current level of 1.2 billion to 1.6 billion by 2050. Climate change will increase the number of water-stressed regions and exacerbate shortages in already water-stressed regions.
Central Europe and Caucasus have reached peak water now. Tibetan Plateau region will reach peak water between 2030 and 2050.
Earth System Observations during COVID-19
Global observing systems have been affected because of Covid-19 pandemic. Aircraft-based observations, Hydrological observations and manual observations have been badly disrupted.
In March 2020, nearly all oceanographic research vessels were recalled to home ports. Commercial ships have been unable to contribute vital ocean and weather observations, and ocean buoys and other systems could not be maintained. Four full-depth ocean surveys of variables such as carbon, temperature, salinity, and water alkalinity, completed only once per decade, have been cancelled. Surface carbon measurements from ships, which tell us about the evolution of greenhouse gases, also effectively ceased.