Global Response to COVID-19 Not Enough to Delay Climate Change

by Saarang Kashyap

While emissions of CO2 have plummeted during the lockdown, concentrations of the long-lasting gas have continued to rise in the atmosphere. The period from 2016 to 2020 will likely be the warmest five years on record, a new study reports.

The United in Science report, as mentioned in BBC News, brings together experts from a large number of international organizations, including the UN and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), to give an updated snapshot of the state of the global climate. The study shows that global lockdowns had a significant and immediate impact on emissions of greenhouse gases, with daily levels in April 2020 falling by 17% compared with 2019.

Similar upward trends in CO2 have been observed from other parts of the world. At the Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii, the amount of CO2 measured in air samples has increased from 411 parts per million (ppm) in July 2019 to 414ppm in July this year. Similarly, at Cape Grim monitoring station in Tasmania, concentrations were also up from 407 to 410ppm in the year to July.

Additionally, global sea levels are rising much faster than previously recorded. Between 2016 and 2020, the rate of increase was 4.8mm per year, an increase over the 4.1mm recorded between 2011 and 2015. The extent of sea-ice in the Arctic has continued to decline, at a rate of 13% per decade.Why might the rise of climate change be a much bigger problem than COVID-19? As stated in GatesNotes, “Within the next 40 years, increases in global temperatures are projected to raise global mortality rates by the same amount—14 deaths per 100,000. By the end of the century, if emissions growth stays high, climate change could be responsible for 73 extra deaths per 100,000 people. In a lower emissions scenario, the death rate drops to 10 per 100,000.” These numbers prove that climate change, although initially illusive, is a dangerous threat when you consider it on a long term scale.