Scientists predict that next year we will see one of the largest annual increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide. And it may even be the biggest increase since the beginning of the measurements that began 62 years ago. In particular, the Australian forest fires are doing a lot in the bag, according to researchers.
The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is expected to peak again this year. Researchers predict that in May we will exceed 417 ppm (particles per million). And that’s alarmingly high. Last May, the sensors of Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii measured a concentration of 415.26 ppm, which reflected the highest measured concentration since the beginning of humanity.
As mentioned, the Australian bushfires are partly to blame for the sharp rise. For example, emissions from Australia’s recent bushfires are expected to contribute about 2 percent to the predicted increase. “Local weather patterns and man-made climate change are partly responsible for the warm and dry weather in Australia,” says researcher Richard Betts. “And this plays a key role in the seriousness of Australian forest fires that in turn contribute to emissions.”
Not so long ago, scientists calculated how much CO2 has already been released by the devastating fires in Australia. In doing so, they came to a disturbing conclusion. The emissions of the fires alone were estimated at 400 megatons of CO2. This means that the forest fires have already brought twice more CO2 into the air than the Netherlands does in a year.
Increase In CO2
The increase in CO2 concentration will, therefore, continue in 2020. We are expected to reach an average of 414.2 ppm this year. That’s 2.74 ppm higher than in 2019. For the first time, monthly CO2 levels will exceed 415 ppm (during spring and summer) and remain above 410 ppm throughout the year. “Since the beginning of the measurements, co2 concentration in the atmosphere – driven by the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation – has increased annually,” Betts says. But especially in recent years, things have been going hard. In 2015, for example, we exceeded the 400 ppm; a symbolic moment. The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere ticked up to 407.8 ppm (particles per million) in 2018, while it peaked at 405.5 ppm in 2017.
The rate at which CO2 concentration in the atmosphere increases depends heavily on how much is absorbed by forests and other ecosystems, for example. And according to Betts, these will now be able to absorb less CO2 than usual for the second year in a row. Warmer and dry conditions ensure that plants absorb less CO2. This increases the risk of forest fires and releases more CO2.
The findings show painfully that we are far from on the right track to tackle climate change. Despite all the commitments, co2 concentration in the atmosphere continues to increase. And that’s bad news. CO2 lingers in the atmosphere for centuries – and even longer in the ocean. If we continue on this footing, future generations will face increasingly serious effects of climate change, including rising temperatures, extreme weather, sea-level rise, and ecosystem disruption. And so now you have to turn the switch. In order to stop further global warming, global human emissions must halve by 2030, before emissions fell to zero by 20 years later. Only with urgent action can the tide be turned.