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Carbon levels rise after COVID dip

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Carbon levels rise after COVID dip
Levels of carbon emissions are rising after the COVID dip. (GP)

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Global carbon dioxide emissions are set to rebound to near the levels they were at before COVID, in a finding that has surprised scientists.

The amount of planet-heating gas released in 2020 fell by 5.4% as the pandemic forced countries to lock down.

But a scientific report by the Global Carbon Project predicts CO2 emissions will rise by 4.9% this year.

It shows the window is closing on our ability to limit temperature rise to the critical threshold of 1.5C.

This rise in carbon dioxide (CO2) released into the atmosphere underlines the urgency of action at summits like COP26 in Glasgow, scientists say.

Important deals have been struck at the meeting this week, on limiting emissions of methane and on curbing deforestation.

Yet emissions from coal and gas are predicted to grow more in 2021 than they fell the previous year – though carbon released from oil use is expected to remain below 2019 levels.

Dr Glen Peters, from the Center for International Climate Research (Cicero) in Oslo, Norway, said: “What many of us were thinking in 2020 – including me – was more of a recovery spread out over a few years, as opposed to a big hitch in 2021.

“That’s where the surprise comes for me – that it happened so quick, and also there’s a concern that there’s still some recovery to come.”

This rapid rebound in emissions is at odds with the ambitious CO2 cuts required in order to limit global temperature rise to 1.5C. This is the increase viewed by scientists as the gateway to dangerous levels of global warming.

The 16th annual Global Carbon Budget report was compiled by more than 94 authors who analysed economic data and information on emissions from land activities, such as forestry.

It shows that, if we continue along as we are and don’t cut emissions, there’s a 50% likelihood of reaching the 1.5C of warming in about 11 years. This concurs with the findings in a recent UN report that suggested we would get there by the early 2030s.

Prof Corinne Le Quéré, from the University of East Anglia, said: “To limit climate change to 1.5C, emissions of CO2 need to reach net zero by 2050. Doing this in a straight line would mean cutting global emissions down by 1.4 billion tonnes of CO2 each year.”

The fall in 2020 was 1.9 billion tonnes, but that was in the lockdown.

So reducing emissions by an amount roughly equivalent to that in the post-lockdown period presents a daunting challenge. But the scientists stress that it remains achievable. (BBC)


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