GENEVA, SWITZERLAND — Climate change has not stopped for COVID-19, as emissions are bouncing back after a temporary decline caused by the pandemic lockdown and economic slowdown, and the world is still off the track of limiting global temperature rise, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said on Wednesday.
This is according to a new multi-agency report from leading science organizations — United in Science 2020. It was compiled by WMO under the direction of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to bring together the latest climate science-related updates from a group of global partner organizations, according to WMO.
“Greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere are at record levels and continue to increase. Emissions are heading in the direction of pre-pandemic levels following a temporary decline caused by the lockdown and economic slowdown,” WMO said in a press statement.
The world is set to see its warmest five years on record, in a trend which is likely to continue, and is not on track to meet agreed targets to keep global temperature increase well below two degrees Celsius or at 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, it said.
The report highlights the increasing and irreversible impacts of climate change, which affects glaciers, oceans, nature, economies and human living conditions and is often felt through water-related hazards like drought or flooding.
It also documents how COVID-19 has impeded our ability to monitor these changes through the global observing system, WMO said.
“This has been an unprecedented year for people and planet. The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted lives worldwide. At the same time, the heating of our planet and climate disruption has continued apace,” said Guterres in a foreword.
“Record heat, ice loss, wildfires, floods and droughts continue to worsen, affecting communities, nations and economies around the world. Furthermore, due to the amount of greenhouse gases emitted in the past century, the planet is already locked into future significant heating,” he said.
“We must turn the recovery from the pandemic into a real opportunity to build a better future,” Guterres added. “We need science, solidarity and solutions.”
According to WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas, greenhouse gas concentrations are already at their highest levels in three million years, and have continued to rise; and 2016 to 2020 is set to be the warmest five-year period on record. “While many aspects of our lives have been disrupted in 2020, climate change has continued unabated,” he said.
“It is still possible to bridge the emissions gap, but this will require urgent and concerted action by all countries and across all sectors,” the report said.