UK Met Office warns that reprieve in CO2 levels is only temporary

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The UK Met Office has predicted a slower than usual build-up of CO2  in the atmosphere this year because of a temporary increase in natural carbon sinks.

Temporary planetary cooling – as a result of La Niña in the tropical Pacific – is currently slowing CO2  build-up by encouraging tropical forests and other vegetation to soak up more than usual for the third year running.

Therefore, while CO₂  levels in the atmosphere continue to increase due to emissions from fossil fuel burning and deforestation, this increase is smaller than it would have been without the extra carbon uptake by remaining forests.

To follow the 1.5°C limitation scenario, the increase needs to keep becoming smaller year-on-year. This would only be possible through rapid and deep cuts in global emissions.

Professor Richard Betts, head of climate impacts at the Met Office, said, “Although our forecast is for a slower build-up again this year, this is not because humanity is emitting less carbon. Instead, we are getting a free ‘helping hand’ from nature – but only for now. Once La Niña weather patterns have ceased, more of our emissions will remain in the atmosphere. We cannot rely on nature to do our job for us.”

The Met Office forecast calculates the annual average CO₂  concentration at Mauna Loa, in Hawaii, to be 1.97 ± 0.52 ppm higher in 2023 than in 2022. Without the masking effect of La Niña, the rise would have been 2.3ppm.

Betts added, “At first sight, this year’s CO2  rise might appear to be in line with a scenario for limiting global warming to 1.5°C, but actually this is a false impression. It is happening only temporarily, and not for the right reasons. Once the current La Niña abates, its ability to draw down carbon dioxide will be lost, allowing CO₂  in the atmosphere to grow faster.

“The 1.5°C scenario requires a determined year-by-year decline in the rate of atmospheric CO2  rise, starting immediately and reaching zero in the 2030s.

“Rapid, large-scale cuts in global emissions are needed to achieve this. These are not reflected in current global pledges and policies, as reported in the IPCC WG3 report,” he said.

The forecast predicts that the average concentration of carbon dioxide this year will reach above 420 ± 0.5ppm at the observing station in Mauna Loa in 2023. This will be the first time that these levels have been reached in the Keeling Curve record, which dates back to 1958. When the record began, CO₂  levels were around 316ppm and increasing at less than one part per million per year.

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, editor-in-chief

Dan first joined UKi Media & Events in 2014 having spent the early years of his career in the recruitment industry. As editor, he now produces content for Meteorological Technology International, unearthing the latest technological advances and research methods for the publication of each exciting new issue. When he’s not reporting on the latest meteorological news, Dan can be found on the golf course or apprehensively planning his next DIY project.

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