World leaders are set to gather in Egypt in less than two weeks for the United Nations Climate Change Conference, known as COP27, or the 27th “conference of parties” under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.
This year’s meeting, which opens Nov. 6, will involve negotiations among countries over how to meet their emissions-cutting targets, what adaptation efforts to focus on and how to provide funding to countries least responsible for global warming and most affected by climate change.
The WMO’s report adds urgency to the talks. It found that concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere last year hit 415.7 parts per million, which means that for every 1 million molecules of gas in the atmosphere, more than 415 were carbon dioxide.
In 2020, the planet enjoyed a temporary reduction in carbon emissions because of coronavirus lockdowns around the world, but the WMO said there are indications that global carbon dioxide levels are continuing to rise this year.
The report also found that concentrations of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, were 1,908 parts per billion last year and that concentrations of nitrous oxide hit 334.5 parts per billion.
Human activities, including agriculture, coal mining and oil and gas production, account for around 60% of global methane emissions, researchers have said. Although it’s not clear why methane concentrations jumped significantly last year, the WMO said the increase appears to be the result of “both biological and human-induced processes.”
Nitrous oxide is the third-largest contributor to climate change after methane and carbon dioxide. Agriculture, industrial activities, the burning of fossil fuels and other human activities account for around 43% of nitrous oxide emissions.
The WMO said concentrations of the greenhouse gas rose slightly more last year than from 2019 to 2020, faster than the average annual growth rate over the past decade.
The agency’s report uses data from a network known as Global Atmosphere Watch, which measures greenhouse gases and atmospheric composition.
Taalas said the report’s findings indicate that “time is running out.”
“The continuing rise in concentrations of the main heat-trapping gases, including the record acceleration in methane levels, shows that we are heading in the wrong direction,” he said in the statement.
Chantal Da Silva contributed.