The year 2020 saw an unprecedented fall in greenhouse gas emissions due to many shelter-in-place and temporary shutdowns worldwide. Our expectation is a net reduction of Carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere.
However, Britain’s Met Office predicts that the atmosphere’s CO2 levels will reach 50% higher than the pre-industrial revolution. The 2021 forecast for annual average CO2 concentration, measured at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, will be higher than the 2020 number by around 2.29 parts per million (ppm). Mauna Loa has been continuously monitoring atmospheric CO2 concentrations since 1958.
The concentration of atmospheric CO2 is expected to exceed 417 ppm sometime between April and June. For comparison, during the late 18th century, right when the industrial era started, the concentrations were at 278 ppm.
But why didn’t the fall in greenhouse gas emissions during 2020 reduce the atmospheric CO2 concentrations? Atmospheric CO2 stays for a very long time, and every year’s emission adds to the overall concentration. Even though 2020 saw a significant low emission of CO2, it still added to the overall numbers.
It took nearly 200 years for CO2 concentrations to increase by 25% of the pre-industrial era, but now in just 30 years, we are approaching a 50% increase.
Increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has resulted in the warming of the Earth. An increase in temperature by 1C can cause rising sea levels, severe flooding, droughts, and tropical storms, which we are experiencing in many parts of the world.
According to the United Nations, to meet the temperature goals of the Paris climate deal, emissions from industries, food production, transportation, and energy generation must fall by more than 7% every year for a decade.
Atmospheric CO2 concentrations are less susceptible to short term variations in fossil fuel usage; only a long term systematic reduction suggested by the UN can reduce the levels.
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