WMO says CO2 levels are now 50% higher than pre-industrial levels: What could be possible global impacts?

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) on Monday said carbon dioxide (CO2) measured at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA’s) Mauna Loa Atmospheric Baseline Observatory peaked for 2022 at 421 parts per million in May. According to the WMO, CO2 levels are more than 50% higher than the pre-industrial levels.

Scientists from NOAA and at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego on June 3 announced that the CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere are in territory which has not been experienced for millions of years.

CO2 levels in pre-industrial age

In the pre-industrial age, CO2 levels varied from 180 to 280 ppm, with the current level at 421 ppm. Since 1854, CO2 concentrations have risen from 280 parts per million (ppm) to 405 ppm in May 2017. Due to human activities, the WMO predicts that CO2 concentration will further increase to reach 450 ppm by 2030.

Trend of CO2 emissions


Emissions of CO2 have been constant in 2012, 2013 and 2014. For the decade between 2005 and 2014, emissions decreased by 4%, mainly due to the recession of 2008-09. In 2015, they rose again by 1.1% but dropped by 0.6% in 2016. The report warns that if current emissions trends continue, the concentration levels may exceed 500 ppm in just a few decades.

From 1750 to 1770 there is a rapid rise in CO2 as measurements are only available from 50 locations worldwide and many are on land. After 1950 more data became available and the rate of increase of CO2 slowed as the rise was now influenced by fossil fuel burning.

From 1750 to 2016, CO2 has increased by 115 ppm (0.115%), according to Mauna Loa Observatory; there has been a nearly continuous oscillation in levels, with annual increases and decreases of roughly 2–3 ppm until the late 1960s. In the 1960s the average rate of increase was larger than during the 1990s and early 2000s. Since then, the rate of increase has slowed down.

NOAA’s data and experts’ statements about CO2 level increment and causes

NOAA’s measurements of carbon dioxide at the mountaintop observatory on Hawaii’s Big Island averaged 420.99 parts per million (ppm), which is an increase of 1.8 ppm over 2021. Scientists at Scripps calculated a monthly average of 420.78 ppm. Scripps maintains an independent record.

Quoting to NOAA administrator Rick Spinrad as saying, agencies write, “The science is irrefutable: humans are altering our climate in ways that our economy and our infrastructure must adapt to. We can see the impacts of climate change around us every day. The relentless increase of carbon dioxide measured at Mauna Loa is a stark reminder that we need to take urgent, serious steps to become a more Climate Ready Nation”.

Experts say CO2 levels are now comparable to the Pliocene Climatic Optimum, between 4.1 and 4.5 million years ago, when they were close to, or above 400 ppm. Sea levels during that time were between 5 and 25 meters higher than today’s offsite link, high enough to drown many of the world’s largest modern cities. Then temperatures averaged 7 degrees Fahrenheit higher than in pre-industrial times, and studies indicate that large forests occupied today’s Arctic tundra.

Mostly, CO2 emissions come from burning fossil fuels for transportation and electricity generation, cement manufacturing, deforestation, agriculture and many others. CO2, along with other greenhouse gases, traps heat radiating from the planet’s surface that would otherwise escape into space, causing the planet’s atmosphere to warm steadily.

UN Bonn climate change conference TWN’s statement

On Monday, the United Nations Bonn climate change conference opened. In the conference, governments are expected to discuss mitigation, adaptation, support to developing countries – particularly finance – and loss and damage. The conference is also to lay down the agenda for COP 27 to be held in Sharm El-Sheikh.

UN Climate Change executive secretary Patricia Espinosa said on Monday, “We urgently require political-level interventions and decisions in each of these areas in order to achieve a balanced package. Doing so will send a clear message to the world that we are headed in the right direction. Because the world is going to have one question in Sharm El-Sheikh: what progress have you made since Glasgow?”

An international research and advocacy organization said on Tuesday that , on day 1, there was a delay in adopting two issues in the provisional agenda of the Subsidiary Bodies (SBs) under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). These issues were the global goal on adaptation (GGA) and the Glasgow Dialogue on loss and damage, two issues of priority for developing countries, the Third World Network (TWN).

View of developing countries on the issue

Many developing countries and their groupings stressed the need for balance in the treatment of adaptation and mitigation several times. Although the GGA agenda item was finally adopted as an additional agenda to be considered by Parties, the agenda item on the Glasgow Dialogue on loss and damage was kept in abeyance, TWN said.

The ‘Glasgow-Sharm El-Sheikh work program on the GGA’ was established last year. Like Minded Developing Countries (LMDC), a grouping of developing countries, requested during several meetings held before the official opening of the Bonn conference that it be included in the Bonn meeting agenda. Developed countries however were not in favor of the proposal, TWN said.

Experts say the global goal on adaptation aims to provide a system for tracking and assessing countries’ progress on adaptation actions and providing adaptation finance.

Possible global impacts of CO2 levels increase

Continuing increase in the levels of CO2 could cause significant global impacts, experts say. Higher temperatures increase the risk of conflicts and diseases. By the end of the century, unless emissions of greenhouse gases are reduced drastically by 2100, extreme events such as heat waves, floods and droughts will be much more frequent.

In brief, possible global impacts of CO2 levels increase are as follows:

  • The planet gets warmer causing rise in sea levels, higher frequency and intensity of extreme weather events such as floods and droughts. The oceans become more acidic due to absorption of carbon dioxide.
  • Different countries experience climate change differently: In some parts of the world, winters likely would be warmer while summers would be cooler. In other parts of the world, extreme weather events might occur more often. These different impacts could lead to political and economic conflicts between nations around the world.
  • The oceans become more acidic due to absorption of carbon dioxide emitted by human activities into the atmosphere.
  • By the end of the century, unless emissions of greenhouse gases are reduced drastically by 2100, extreme events such as heat waves, floods and droughts will be much more frequent.
  • The cost of food increases due to drought caused by climate change. Water resource conflicts between countries could intensify.
  • Some countries might become too warm for human habitation. Warmer temperatures will cause species to move beyond their natural ranges and may force them to adapt or become extinct.
3 most effective ways to stop CO2 levels increase
  • Switch to renewable energy sources such as hydro, solar and wind.
  • Mitigate effects of climate change with forests and other means.
  • Reduce or prevent deforestation.

So, in view of what it’s said so far, it is obvious that the Paris agreement is a good one for us but it would be better if it was seen to be in national interests and not on behalf of any international agreement, which should govern individual actions.

As a people and nation we must adopt the path for climate stability based on our own traditions. We must go forward with all efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It will take time. Let’s do it slowly and scientifically, at our own pace and not in any hurry!

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