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UN Report: Lockdowns Not Abetting Greenhouse Gas Emissions

World Meteorological Organization Secretary-General Petteri Taalas speaks at the opening of the high-level segment of the COP25 in Madrid, Spain, Dec. 10, 2019.

The World Meteorological Organization reports greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere continue to reach record levels despite COVID-19 lockdowns. The WMO has just released its annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin on atmospheric
concentrations of carbon dioxide and other major greenhouse gases.

COVID-19 lockdown measures have reduced air pollution levels in major cities in India, China and elsewhere. The World Meteorological Organization, however, says the measures have failed to curb the relentless rise in greenhouse gas emissions, trapping heat in the atmosphere and accelerating global warming.

Increasing temperatures are causing more extreme weather events, ice melt, sea-level rise and ocean acidification. WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said the COVID-19 pandemic is not a solution for climate change. While carbon dioxide emissions have fallen during lockdown, he told VOA this will have little impact on global warming and climate change.

“This year, we have seen drops of emissions by four- to seven percent because of the COVID lockdowns but that is not going to change the big picture because the lifetime of carbon dioxide is so, so long," he said.

Carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for centuries and in the ocean even longer. Oksana Tarasova head of the WHO’s Atmospheric and Environment Research Division, said the current rate of greenhouse gas emissions is dramatic.

“We have seen such changes, but those changes happened when the whole climate changed from glacial to interglacial and that change happened within 100 to 200 years…We humans did it without anything - just with our emissions. We have done it within four years,” said Tarasova.

The 2016 Paris Climate Agreement aims to limit global temperature rise to one-point-five degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by 2050. Taalas said it is unlikely this goal will be reached by then. But, he said China, the European Union, Japan and South Korea have made commitments to become carbon neutral by 2060.

They are responsible for 50 percent of global emissions. U.N. officials say they expect the administration of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden to make similar commitments.