Energy & Environment

Global emissions on the rise toward pre-pandemic levels

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Gases that trap heat in the atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and fluorinated gases, are called greenhouse gases.

Global emissions are ticking back up after falling while the novel coronavirus spread across the globe, leaving the pandemic with little impact in fighting climate change, according to a new report from the World Meteorological Organization.

Despite a 17 percent drop in global emissions at the height of the pandemic in the spring, emissions have started to increase again with more human activity, according to the report. The organization also found that 2016 through 2020 are likely to be the five hottest years on record.

“While emissions fell during the peak of the pandemic confinement measures, they have already mostly recovered to within 5 percent of the same period in 2019 and are likely to increase further,” António Guterres, secretary-general of the United Nations, said in a release. “This report stresses that short-term lockdowns are no substitute for the sustained climate action that is needed.”

Despite disruptions to people’s daily lives, Guterres said, “the heating of our planet and climate disruption has continued apace.”

Research from the Global Carbon Project cited in the report attributed the initial drop to a decline in ground and air transportation, along with drops in the industry and power sector among others.

“The projected emissions decline for year 2020 will depend on the continued trajectory of the pandemic and government responses to address it. We estimate a decline for 2020 approximately in the range of 4 percent to 7 percent compared to 2019 levels, depending on different pandemic scenarios,” the report states.

Though 2020 emissions are overall expected to fall behind 2019, it will not offset climate change, as methane emissions, another heat trapping gas, is on the rise.

“Current trends in emissions of [carbon and methane] are not compatible with emission pathways consistent with limiting global warming,” the U.N. agency report states.

Tags Climate change global emissions World Meteorological Organization

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