Climate change: Study finds greenhouse gas levels were highest on record in 2020 despite lockdowns | Climate news

Any hopes that pandemic lockdowns would hamper the build-up of greenhouse gases have faded, with a new report confirming that global levels have reached their highest recorded in 2020.

The coronavirus outbreak grounded flights and disinfected streets around the world last year, with emissions from burning fossil fuels dropping about 7%.

But the decrease was too small to have any material effect on the buildup of carbon dioxide in the air, according to a global annual review.

In fact, carbon dioxide levels were highest in recent records as well as in ice core records dating back 800,000 years, with concentrations 48% higher than pre-industrial values. Other greenhouse gases have also reached new highs according to the peer-reviewed study, published by the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.

Temperatures in Europe were 1.9°C above the long-term average for 1981-2010

This news is a “stark reminder” that climate drivers are determined “by time horizons much longer than one year” stated in the State of the Climate report, led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Environmental Information.

“A global pandemic cannot stop climate-destroying emissions long enough to stop the destruction of the planet,” said Jamie Peters, director of the Friends of the Earth campaign.

“It’s clear that we need every politician, business leader, and decision-maker to work together and change the way we do things.”

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The study also found that in 2020, Europe was sweltering in its warmest year ever, with temperatures 1.9°C higher than the long-term average for 1981-2010.

All five warmest years of average annual temperatures occurred in Europe from 2014 onwards.

Almost the entire European continent recorded temperatures above normal. Russia was about three degrees above average, while Estonia, Lithuania, Finland, Belarus and Ukraine were all two degrees warmer.

For the UK, 2020 was the third warmest on record – at 0.8°C above average – and the winter was 143% wetter than usual.

Rising temperatures on Earth continue to drive sea level rise – 2020 marked a new rise for the ninth consecutive year.

Temperatures in various parts of Europe have risen above the long-term average
UK temperatures rose 0.8°C above the long-term average

The study is one of several that have recently raised the alarm about climate change and extreme weather, and was published shortly before the UN climate negotiations COP26 in November.

Rapidly attributing extreme weather events to climate change is important to “drive the political will and mobilize the resources needed to prepare for, respond and adapt to interconnected climate-related crises,” said Rebecca Peters, a transatlantic academic fellow in the Environment and Society Program at Chatham House.

“Even without attribution analysis, we know that the faster we reduce emissions, the more severe risks associated with these increasingly intense and frequent events can be reduced,” she said.

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