On Monday, 25 November 2019, less than a week before the UN Climate Change Conference, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) issued a report indicating that atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) have reached an all-time high of 407.8 parts per million (ppm) in 2018, and show no signs of slowing down.
For comparison, the last time the Earth had so much CO2 in the atmosphere was about 3 million years ago when the temperature was approximately 3 degrees Celsius warmer and sea levels were up to 20 metres higher.
According to Petteri Taalas – Secretary-General of the WMO – despite all the commitments made by the countries that have joined the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, the concentrations of the crucial greenhouse gases have not declined and will almost certainly keep rising, at least in the near- to mid-term.
The report was made on the basis of measurements taken at more than 100 monitoring stations around the world, capable of assessing the minute changes in gas concentrations at any given location, to chart the average global trends for CO2, methane, and nitrous oxide.
“I can tell you they’re going to go up next year and the following one and then the next decade and the following decade,” warned Pep Canadell, a climate scientist with Australia’s CSIRO and Executive Director of the Global Carbon Project. “It’s not until you bring those emissions to zero, that you can begin to inspire stabilisation in the atmosphere.”
Canadell had announced the release of the Global Carbon Project’s annual “carbon budget” on 4 December, comparing it to a household budget, only in this case it measures the amount of carbon put into the atmosphere by human activities, how much of it accumulates there, and how much is pulled out through processes taking place in oceans and land.
Given the current science on what’s going on with the climate, the situation is clearly dire, requiring us to slash emissions quite dramatically to halt, let alone reverse, rising concentrations of CO2 and other gasses, and prompting over 11,000 scientists to declare a climate emergency earlier this month.