The pace of rising carbon dioxide in the atmosphere needs to slow by about 20% over the next five years in order to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius compared with pre-industrial levels, according to the latest analysis from the U.K.’s Met Office.
The department’s annual CO2 forecast is a reminder that current efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions are insufficient, meaning the world needs to act even more aggressively in future years to have any chance of reaching global climate targets.
This year, the average CO2 concentration likely will increase by 2.14 parts per million, the Met Office said. That’s actually a slower pace than in recent years, thanks to higher amounts of carbon-removing plant growth driven by weather conditions from the La Nina phenomenon.
“Nature will temporarily be doing our ‘heavy lifting’ this year as ecosystems – such as tropical forests – are expected to draw down a higher proportion of carbon-dioxide from the atmosphere than usual,” said Richard Betts, head of climate impacts research at the Met Office. “However, if the world is to meet ambitious targets within the Paris Agreement, the long-term build-up of CO2 in the atmosphere needs to slow rapidly and come to a halt before mid-century.”
Another year of rapidly increasing carbon content in the Earth’s atmosphere follows 2021, which clocked in as the fifth-hottest on record. To reach the goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees, the preferred level set out in the Paris climate agreement, the rise in atmospheric CO2 must slow to an average of 2 parts per million per year over the next five years.
That rate should keep dropping quickly and then stop in the early 2040s, leaving CO2 levels to decline for the rest of the century. There’s little indication that the world will reach that scenario as economies burn a record amount of coal as they rebound from the pandemic.