Global CO2 levels at record high despite COVID-19 crisis: Report

New Delhi (NVI): High levels of carbon dioxide have been recorded globally despite reports of improvements in air quality in some parts across the world due to the coronavirus lockdown, according to a study.

The recent data from the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) shows global carbon dioxide (CO2) levels rising sharply. The data shows that the climate crisis is far from over despite the coronavirus crisis.

In April 2020, the average concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere was 416.21 parts per million (ppm). It is the highest since measurement records began in Hawaii in 1958, according to the report.

Furthermore, UNEP’s World Environment Situation Room shows a sharp increase of more than 100 ppm since March 1958.

Apart from this, ice core records indicate that such levels of CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere have not been seen in the last 800,000 years.

Using ice-core records, it is possible to measure CO2 trapped in deep Antarctic ice going back 800,000s years. We have never in the last 800,000 years reached 416 ppm, UNEP said in its report.

According to the data, not only are CO2 concentrations increasing but they are accelerating at an alarming rate. During the 1960s, the increase over a year was an average of 0.9 ppm which has risen to an average 2.4 ppm a year in the past decade.

During the pandemic, satellite data had shown reductions in nitrogen dioxide levels over urban areas in China, Europe and the US but overall, global emissions are climbing.

“This is, of course, of great concern for our climate, and demonstrates yet again that urgent action is needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. To keep average global warming to 1.5 degress Celsius, we need to achieve net zero emissions by 2040,” says director of UNEP and programme manager of the WESR Pascal Peduzzi.

While air and land traffic and industrial activity have taken a significant hit due to the pandemic, which has led to a decline in carbon emissions, enough action is still not being taken.

Forest fires and wildfires that are increasing in likelihood and severity due to climate change continue to affect swathes of Brazil, Honduras, Myanmar, Thailand, and Venezuela, each fire emitting large amounts of additional CO2.

According to the World Energy Outlook data, the global electricity mix is still predominantly sourced from fossil fuels. 64 per cent of our electricity supply comes from dirty energy sources, with 38 per cent coming from coal, 23 per cent from gas and 3 per cent from oil.

UNEP climate change expert Niklas Hagelberg says, “Without fundamental shifts in global energy production, we should have no reason to expect a lasting reduction in emissions.”

Hagelberg says that Covid-19 has provided the whole world a chance to take stock of the risks it is taking in its unsustainable relationship with the environment and seize the opportunity to rebuild the economies in more environmentally responsible ways.

“We must take serious account of global threats such as pandemics and climate disaster in order to build resilient markets, companies, countries, global systems and a healthy, sustainable future for everyone,” he says.

“Supporting fiscal stimulus and finance packages to take advantage of decarbonization and the accelerating renewable and clean energy transition will not be just a short-term economic win but a win for future resilience too,” he adds.