Emissions cuts ‘far from close’ to nations needed to avert climate catastrophe, says UN

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According to a study by the World Meteorological Organization, the amount of methane in the atmosphere is growing at an accelerating rate, threatening to undermine efforts to slow climate change.

The WMO’s Greenhouse Gas Bulletin said “global emissions have rebounded from COVID-related lockdowns” and increases in methane levels in 2020 and 2021 were the largest since the start of the pandemic. systematic record keeping in 1983.

“Methane concentrations are not just increasing, they are increasing faster than ever,” said Rob Jackson, professor of Earth system science at Stanford University.

The study comes on the same day as a new UN report that says the world’s governments have failed to commit to sufficiently reduce climate emissionsputting the world on track for a 2.5 degree Celsius (4.5 degree Fahrenheit) increase in global temperatures by the end of the century.

The analysis revealed that the level of emissions established in country commitments was lower than a year ago, but would still lead to a full temperature increase beyond the target level set at the last climate summits. Simon Stiell, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Climate Change Secretariat, said that “we are still far from the scale and pace of emissions reductions needed to put us on the right path to a World at 1.5 degrees Celsius.”

The fastest way to affect the rate of global warming would be to reduce emissions of methane, the second largest contributor to climate change. Its warming impact is 80 times greater than that of carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. The WMO said the amount of methane in the atmosphere jumped 15 parts per billion in 2020 and 18 parts per billion in 2021.

Scientists are investigating whether unusually large increases in atmospheric methane levels in 2020 and 2021 are the result of ‘climate feedback’ from natural sources such as tropical wetlands and rice paddies or whether they are the result of natural gas from human origin and industrial leakage. Or both.

Methane emitted by fossil sources contains more carbon-13 isotope than that produced by wetlands or livestock.

“The isotope data suggests that it is biological rather than fossil methane from gas leaks. It could come from agriculture,” Jackson said. He warned that “this could even be the start of a dangerous warming-induced acceleration of methane emissions from wetlands and other natural systems that have concerned us for decades.”

The WMO said that as the planet warms, organic matter breaks down faster. If organic matter decomposes in water – without oxygen – this leads to methane emissions. This process could feed on itself; if tropical wetlands become wetter and warmer, more emissions are possible.

“Will warming fuel warming in tropical wetlands? Jackson asked. “We do not know yet.”

Antoine Halff, chief analyst and co-founder of the company Kayross, which does extensive analysis of satellite data, said “we see no increase” in methane generated from fossil sources. He said some countries, like Australia, have reduced emissions while others, like Algeria, have gotten worse.

Atmospheric levels of the other two main greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide – also reached record highs in 2021, according to a WMO study. “The increase in carbon dioxide levels from 2020 to 2021 was greater than the average annual growth rate over the past decade,” he said.

Carbon dioxide concentrations in 2021 were 415.7 parts per million (or ppm), methane at 1908 parts per billion (ppb), and nitrous oxide at 334.5 ppb. These values ​​were 149%, 262% and 124% of pre-industrial levels.

The report “underlined, once again, the enormous challenge – and the vital need – for urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prevent global temperatures from rising even further in the future. “, said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.

Like others, Taalas urged the pursuit of low-cost techniques to capture short-lived methane, especially when it comes to capturing natural gas. Due to its relatively short lifespan, “methane’s impact on the climate is reversible,” he said.

“The necessary changes are economically affordable and technically possible. Time is running out,” he said.

The WMO also highlighted the warming of the oceans and land, as well as the atmosphere. “Of the total emissions from human activities during the period 2011-2020, approximately 48% accumulated in the atmosphere, 26% in the ocean and 29% on land,” the report said.

The WMO report comes shortly before the COP27 climate conference in Egypt next month. Last year, ahead of the climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, the United States and the European Union took the lead in promoting the Global Methane Pledge, which has set itself the goal of achieve a 30% reduction in the atmosphere by 2030. They estimated that this could reduce the rise in temperatures that would otherwise occur by 0.2 degrees Celsius. So far, 122 countries have signed this pledge.

White House climate negotiator John F. Kerry said in the joint US-China statement released in Glasgow, China pledged to release “an ambitious plan” for this year’s climate summit. year which would aim to reduce its methane pollution. So far, however, that hasn’t happened and China still hasn’t released a “Nationally Determined Contribution” or NDC in UN jargon.

“We look forward to an updated NDC 2030 from China that accelerates CO2 reductions and tackles all greenhouse gases,” Kerry said.

“To keep this goal alive, national governments must strengthen their climate action plans now and implement them over the next eight years,” he said.

The UN report says the combined 193 climate commitments made in the international Paris agreement in 2015 would increase emissions by 10.6% by 2030, compared to 2010 levels. This reflects an improvement on last year’s assessment, which found countries were on track to increase emissions by 13.7% by 2030, compared to 2010 levels, the United Nations said.

But only 24 countries have revised their nationally determined contributions, or NDCs, since the climate summit a year ago in Glasgow, Scotland, making it difficult to avert the worst of climate disasters, the nations said. United. Australia has made the most significant changes to its national climate target.

Postcards from our climate future

The 2018 report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said carbon dioxide emissions must be cut by 45% by 2030, compared to 2010 levels. Earlier this year and using 2019 as a benchmark, the IPCC said greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by 43% by 2030.

“Government decisions and actions must reflect the level of urgency, the severity of the threats we face and the short time we have left to avoid the devastating consequences of runaway climate change,” said Stiel.

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