The World Is “Heading In The Wrong Direction”, Says Scientists

We at Whitestone are able to report that the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) has reported that the atmospheric levels of all three greenhouse gases have reached record highs. In 2021, carbon dioxide concentrations were 415.7 parts per million, methane was 1908 parts per billion and nitrous oxide was 334.5 parts per billion. These are 149%, 262% and 124% of pre-industrial levels. These figures are set to be presented at the Cop27 UN climate conference in November and the WMO is in Sharm El-Sheik to attend the conference. [1] 

Concentrations of methane between 2020 and 2021 have had its biggest year-on-year jump within 40 years, puzzling scientists. Scientists countered the blame on fracking as industrial emissions did not show a similar sharp rise. Instead, the theory is that activities of microbes in wetlands, rice paddies and the guts of ruminants are the cause. The rising temperatures have caused the ideal conditions for microbial methane production. Professor Petteri Taalas, WMO secretary general, has stated there are “cost-effective strategies available to tackle methane emissions, especially from the fossil fuel sector, and we should implement these without delay,” he added, “However, methane has a relatively short lifetime of less than 10 years, and so its impact on climate is reversible.” [1] 

Professor Taalas did point out the urgency of slashing carbon dioxide emissions, calling it “the main driver of climate change and associated extreme weather”. The rise in carbon dioxide levels between 2020 and 2021 is larger than the annual growth rate over the past decade. [1] 

The Global Carbon Project initiative found that between 1990 and 2021, global carbon emissions rose by more than 60%. This statistic comes despite scientists first predicting the global warming phenomenon more than a century ago and UN climate conferences now taking place for some 30 years. [2] 

Carbon dioxide comprises of about 80% of the increase in greenhouse gas-caused global heating. Professor Taalas stated that the rise in carbon dioxide emissions has the ability to “affect climate for thousands of years through polar ice loss, ocean warming and sea level rise.” [1] 

So far, countries comprising 91% of the global GDP have pledged to reach net zero by 2050. We have seen most of these pledges being made in the past two years. The impact may seem limited for now but Henning Gloystein, director of energy, climate and resources in the Eurasia Group, argues that could soon change. “Net zero moved from being a rich country fad to a global trend in the second half of 2021,” Gloystein stated. “There is a lot of legitimate criticism that net zero isn’t enough to drive change – but even if it isn’t, I think we will soon begin to see economies change much more rapidly as they chart their decarbonisation pathways.” [2] 

With time “running out”, according to Professor Taalas, a transformation of “our industrial, energy and transport systems and whole way of life” is crucial – and notably, “economically affordable and technically possible.” [1] 

At Whitestone we will continue to build our Climate Change Team to deliver the legal infrastructure that compliance and regulatory departments can utilise to improve their own compliance with The Paris Agreement. 

©  Robert Pidgeon – Whitestone Chambers 



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