Climate change

Global carbon emissions have hit new levels, 50% higher than the preindustrial period

Global carbon emissions have hit new levels, 50% higher than in the preindustrial period. Scientists on Monday warned that the global heat-trapping carbon dioxide has reached another dangerous milestone higher than when the industrial age started.

The scientists reported that the average rate of increase is faster than ever witnessed before.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the average carbon dioxide emission level for May was 419.13 parts per million. That’s 1.82 parts per million higher than May 2020 and 50% higher than the stable pre-industrial levels of 280 parts per million.

Global carbon emissions are known to peak every May just before plant life in the Northern Hemisphere blossoms, absorbing some of the carbon out of the atmosphere and into flowers, leaves, seeds, and stems. 

Extreme rainfall and floods projected to continue due to global temperature rise

However, this reprieve is temporary as carbon emission from burning coal, oil, and natural gas for transportation and electricity far exceeds what plants can take in. This pushes greenhouse gas levels to new records yearly.

Cornell University climate scientist Natalie Mahowald, who wasn’t part of the research said, “Reaching 50% higher carbon dioxide than preindustrial is setting a new benchmark and not in a good way. If we want to avoid the worst consequences of climate change, we need to work much harder to cut carbon dioxide emissions and right away.”

Researches have shown that other than increasing global temperatures, climate change makes extreme weather conditions; storms, wildfires, floods, and droughts; worse and more frequent. There are also health effects, including heat deaths and increased pollen. 

Scripps, which calculates the numbers slightly differently based on time and averaging, said the peak in May was 418.9.

Also, the covid-19 lockdown slowed carbon emissions by about 7% due to slowed transportation, travel, and other activity. But the reduction was too small to make a significant difference. Carbon dioxide can stay in the air for 1,000 years or more, so year-to-year changes in emissions don’t register much.

NOAA climate scientist Pieter Tans said the 10-year average rate of increase also set a record, now up to 2.4 parts per million per year.

“Carbon dioxide going up in a few decades like that is extremely unusual,” Tans said. “For example, when the Earth climbed out of the last ice age, carbon dioxide increased by about 80 parts per million and it took the Earth system, the natural system, 6,000 years. We have a much larger increase in the last few decades.”

By comparison, it has taken only 42 years, from 1979 to 2021, to increase carbon dioxide by that same amount.

“The world is approaching the point where exceeding the Paris targets and entering a climate danger zone becomes almost inevitable,” said Princeton University climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer, who wasn’t part of the research.

Also read,

COVID-19 pandemic crushed carbon emissions, but are now back to pre-pandemic levels, Global Carbon Project reports

Corona pandemic helps Germany hit climate targets, Environment minister say

Global energy-related emissions rebound after a steep drop in 2020, IEA says

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