Greenhouse gases hit new record despite lockdowns, UN says

The greenhouse of CO2Bio is seen in front of the oil refinery in Mongstad, Norway, July 31, 2018. Picture taken July 31, 2018. (Reuters)
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Updated 09 September 2020

Greenhouse gases hit new record despite lockdowns, UN says

  • COVID lockdowns reduced emissions by 17% in April; but overall, long-term buildup of gases unaffected
  • Carbon dioxide levels at highest in 3 million years

GENEVA/NEW YORK: Concentrations of greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere hit a record high this year, a United Nations report showed on Wednesday, as an economic slowdown amid the coronavirus pandemic had little lasting effect.
The sharp, but short, dip earlier this year represented only a blip in the build-up of climate-warming carbon dioxide, now at its highest level in 3 million years.
“We have seen a drop in the emissions this year because of the COVID crisis and lockdowns in many countries ... but this is not going to change the big picture,” Petteri Taalas, head of the World Meteorological Organization, a UN agency based in Geneva, told Reuters Television.
“We have continued seeing records in atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide.”
While daily emissions fell in April by 17% relative to the previous year, those were still on a par with 2006 – underlining how much emissions have grown in recent years.
And by early June, as factories and offices reopened, emissions were back up to within 5% of 2019 levels, according to the report by several UN agencies.
Even if 2020 emissions are lower than last year’s output by up to 7%, as expected, what is released will still contribute to the long-term accumulation since the industrial era.
“The consequences of our failure to get to grips with the climate emergency are everywhere,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, launching the report in New York.
“Whether we are tackling a pandemic or the climate crisis, it is clear that we need science, solidarity and decisive solutions.”

CARBON DIOXIDE LEVELS RISING
Presenting the latest data on emissions, global temperatures and climate impacts on Earth’s oceans and frozen regions, the report showed atmospheric concentration of CO2 hit 414.38 parts per million in July, compared with 411.74 ppm a year earlier.
Scientists say they consider 350 ppm, breached in 1988, a safe limit.
As CO2 levels have increased, global temperatures have also risen by about 1.1 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Scientists say a temperature rise beyond 1.5 or 2 degrees will lead to far worse impacts across the world, including droughts, stronger storms and extreme sea level rise.
“We are really only adapted and able to deal with a very small range of possible weather,” Friederike Otto, a climate scientist at the University of Oxford, told Reuters.
“Even if this is just perturbed a little bit, we come very quickly to the edges of what we as societies can deal with.”
The report detailed how climate change is expected to put hundreds of millions more people at risk of flooding. Access to fresh water is also projected to worsen.
The number of people living in water-scarce areas by mid-century is now estimated to reach up to 3.2 billion, up from the previous estimate of about 1.9 billion.
“It is those who are the most vulnerable in society who are hit fit first,” Otto said.


Biden slams Trump friendship with ‘thug’ Kim

Updated 23 October 2020

Biden slams Trump friendship with ‘thug’ Kim

  • Trump insists that he has avoided war through his summits with Kim Jong Un
  • Trump calls India, China air ‘filthy’ as he hits Biden’s stance on climate change

NASHVILLE, USA: Democratic candidate Joe Biden on Thursday denounced President Donald Trump for befriending North Korea’s “thug” leader, likening his diplomacy to working with Hitler.
In a sharp clash in their final presidential debate, Biden attacked Trump’s insistence that he has avoided war through his summits with Kim Jong Un.
“He’s talked about his good buddy, who’s a thug,” Biden said of the young North Korean leader.
“That’s like saying we had a good relationship with Hitler before he invaded Europe — the rest of Europe. Come on.”
But Biden indicated he was also willing to meet with Kim, saying his condition would be that Pyongyang works to make the Korean peninsula “a nuclear-free zone.”
Trump said that former president Barack Obama had left him “a mess” on North Korea and had warned him of the risk of “nuclear war.”
After the summits, “we have a very good relationship. And there’s no war,” said Trump, who also played down North Korea’s recent unveiling of a massive new long-range missile at a military parade.
“He didn’t like Obama,” Trump said of Kim not meeting the former president. “He didn’t like him. He wouldn’t do it.”
Biden, who was vice president under Obama, hit back that Obama would not meet Kim because he was pushing stronger sanctions.
“President Obama said we’re going to talk about denuclearization. We’re not going to legitimize you.”
Trump first met in June 2018 with Kim in Singapore, the first-ever summit between the countries still technically at war, and later said that the two leaders “fell in love.”
The two leaders have met two more times and North Korea has since held off on nuclear and missile tests but analysts say Pyongyang has kept advancing its weapons programs.

Climate change
On climate change, Trump described the air in India and China as “filthy” as he denounced Biden’s plans to tackle the controversial issue.
“Look at China, how filthy it is. Look at Russia, look at India — it’s filthy. The air is filthy,” Trump said.
Trump charged that Biden’s climate plan was an “economic disaster” for oil states such as Texas and Oklahoma.
Biden said that climate change is “an existential threat to humanity. We have a moral obligation to deal with it.”
“We’re going to pass the point of no return within the next eight to 10 years,” he said.
The planet has already warmed by around one degree Celsius (34 degrees Fahrenheit) from pre-industrial levels, enough to boost the intensity of deadly heat waves, droughts and tropical storms.
Trump has pulled the United States out of the Paris climate accord, which aims to cap global warming “well below” two degrees Celsius.
Trump’s remarks come days before Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper visit New Delhi for talks on building the growing US-India partnership.
At the first presidential debate, Trump also spoke critically of India, questioning its coronavirus data amid criticism of Trump’s handling of the pandemic.