Surge in Greenhouse Gases Sustained Despite COVID Lockdowns: U.N. | World News

GENEVA (Reuters) – Greenhouse gas concentrations climbed to a new record in 2019 and rose again this year despite an expected drop in emissions due to COVID-19 lockdowns, the World Meteorological Organization said on Monday, warning against complacency.

Many scientists expect the biggest annual fall in carbon emissions in generations this year as measures to contain coronavirus have grounded planes, docked ships and kept commuters at home.

However, the WMO described the projected 2020 drop as a “tiny blip” and said the resulting impact on the carbon dioxide concentrations that contribute to global warming would be no bigger than normal annual fluctuations.

“…In the short-term the impact of the COVID-19 confinements cannot be distinguished from natural variability,” the WMO’s Greenhouse Gas Bulletin said.

The annual report released by the Geneva-based U.N. agency measures the atmospheric concentration of the gases – carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide – that are warming our planet and triggering extreme weather events.

Levels of carbon dioxide, a product of burning fossil fuels that is the biggest contributor to global warming, touched a new record of 410.5 parts per million (ppm) in 2019, it said.

The annual increase is larger than the previous year and beats the average over the last decade.

“Such a rate of increase has never been seen in the history of our records,” WMO Secretary-General Professor Petteri Taalas said, referring to a rise of 10 ppm since 2015, calling for a “sustained flattening of the (emissions) curve”.

WMO’s head of atmospheric environment research Dr. Oksana Tarasova said the magnitude of the increase in carbon dioxide levels over the past four years was comparable to changes seen during the shift from ice age to more temperate periods but, back then, the transition happened over a much longer timeframe.

“We humans did it without anything, with just with our emissions, and we did it within four years.” .

Global data is not yet available for 2020 but the trend of rising concentrations appears to be intact, the WMO said, citing initial readings from its Tasmania and Hawaii stations.

Like other scientific bodies, the WMO said it expects annual global carbon emissions to fall this year due to COVID measures, and ventured a preliminary estimate of between 4.2-7.5%.

Such a drop would not cause atmospheric carbon dioxide to go down, but would slow the rate of increase temporarily on a scale that falls within normal variations, it said.

“Our whole economy and our consumption patterns wire us to extremely high emissions even if we all sit in lockdown,” said Tarasova.

Irrespective of what we do to curb emissions today, much of the carbon dioxide already emitted decades ago remains in the atmosphere and contributes to global warming, climate scientists say.

Over the 2018-2019 period, concentrations of the more potent heat-trapping gas methane increased by 8 parts per billion, the report said – slightly lower than the previous year-on-year change but still above-average over the last 10-year period.

Methane concentrations data is closely watched by scientists

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Surge in greenhouse gases sustained despite Covid-19 lockdowns, U.N. says

GENEVA — Greenhouse gas concentrations climbed to a new record in 2019 and rose again this year despite an expected drop in emissions due to Covid-19 lockdowns, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said on Monday, warning against complacency.

Many scientists expect the biggest annual fall in carbon emissions in generations this year as measures to contain coronavirus have grounded planes, docked ships and kept commuters at home.

However, the WMO described the projected 2020 drop as a “tiny blip” and said the resulting impact on the carbon dioxide concentrations that contribute to global warming would be no bigger than normal annual fluctuations.

“…In the short-term the impact of the Covid-19 confinements cannot be distinguished from natural variability,” the WMO’s Greenhouse Gas Bulletin said.

The annual report released by the Geneva-based U.N. agency measures the atmospheric concentration of the gases — carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide — that are warming our planet and triggering extreme weather events.

Levels of carbon dioxide, a product of burning fossil fuels that is the biggest contributor to global warming, touched a new record of 410.5 parts per million in 2019, it said.

The annual increase is larger than the previous year and beats the average over the last decade.

“Such a rate of increase has never been seen in the history of our records,” WMO Secretary-General Professor Petteri Taalas said, referring to rises since 2015, calling for a “sustained flattening of the (emissions) curve.”

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Global data is not yet available for 2020, but the trend of rising concentrations appears to be intact, the WMO said, citing initial readings from its Tasmania and Hawaii stations.

Like other scientific bodies, the WMO said it expects annual global carbon emissions to fall this year due to Covid measures, and ventured a preliminary estimate of between 4.2-7.5 percent.

Such a drop would not cause atmospheric carbon dioxide to go down, but would slow the rate of increase temporarily on a scale that falls within normal variations, it said.

Irrespective of what we do to curb emissions today, much of the carbon dioxide already emitted decades ago remains in the atmosphere and contributes to global warming, climate scientists say.

Over the 2018-2019 period, concentrations of the more potent heat-trapping gas methane increased by 8 parts per billion, the report said, slightly lower than the previous year-on-year change but still above-average over the last 10-year period.

Methane concentrations data is closely watched by scientists as the gas is prone to unexpected leaks such as those from the fossil fuel industry. That can make its atmospheric levels harder to predict than carbon dioxide.

Levels of nitrous oxide, which erodes the atmosphere’s ozone layer and expose humans to harmful ultraviolet rays, also increased in 2019 but at a lower rate than the previous year and on par with the average growth over the last decade.

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Surge in greenhouse gases sustained despite COVID lockdowns: UN

By Emma Farge



a crowded beach on a sunny day: FILE PHOTO: People enjoy Bournemouth Beach during an unusual heat wave in Bournemouth, England


© Reuters/TOBY MELVILLE
FILE PHOTO: People enjoy Bournemouth Beach during an unusual heat wave in Bournemouth, England

GENEVA (Reuters) – Greenhouse gas concentrations climbed to a new record in 2019 and rose again this year despite an expected drop in emissions due to COVID-19 lockdowns, the World Meteorological Organization said on Monday, warning against complacency.



a map of a canyon: FILE PHOTO: Dried-up rivers and creeks can be seen in the Queensland outback near the town of Mount Isa, Australia


© Reuters/David Gray
FILE PHOTO: Dried-up rivers and creeks can be seen in the Queensland outback near the town of Mount Isa, Australia

Many scientists expect the biggest annual fall in carbon emissions in generations this year as measures to contain coronavirus have grounded planes, docked ships and kept commuters at home.

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However, the WMO described the projected 2020 drop as a “tiny blip” and said the resulting impact on the carbon dioxide concentrations that contribute to global warming would be no bigger than normal annual fluctuations.

“…In the short-term the impact of the COVID-19 confinements cannot be distinguished from natural variability,” the WMO’s Greenhouse Gas Bulletin said.

The annual report released by the Geneva-based U.N. agency measures the atmospheric concentration of the gases – carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide – that are warming our planet and triggering extreme weather events.

Levels of carbon dioxide, a product of burning fossil fuels that is the biggest contributor to global warming, touched a new record of 410.5 parts per million (ppm) in 2019, it said.

The annual increase is larger than the previous year and beats the average over the last decade.

“Such a rate of increase has never been seen in the history of our records,” WMO Secretary-General Professor Petteri Taalas said, referring to a rise of 10 ppm since 2015, calling for a “sustained flattening of the (emissions) curve”.

WMO’s head of atmospheric environment research Dr. Oksana Tarasova said the magnitude of the increase in carbon dioxide levels over the past four years was comparable to changes seen during the shift from ice age to more temperate periods but, back then, the transition happened over a much longer timeframe.

“We humans did it without anything, with just with our emissions, and we did it within four years.” .

Global data is not yet available for 2020 but the trend of rising concentrations appears to be intact, the WMO said, citing initial readings from its Tasmania and Hawaii stations.

Like other scientific bodies, the WMO said it expects annual global carbon emissions to fall this year due to COVID measures, and ventured a preliminary estimate of between 4.2-7.5%.

Such a drop would not cause atmospheric carbon dioxide to go down, but would slow the rate of increase temporarily on a scale that falls within normal variations, it said.

“Our whole economy and our consumption patterns wire us to extremely high emissions even if we all sit in lockdown,” said Tarasova.

Irrespective of what we do to curb emissions today, much of the carbon dioxide already emitted decades ago remains in the atmosphere and contributes to global warming, climate scientists say.

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Humble sees sales tax rebound a few months after coronavirus lockdowns

Despite store and restaurant closures at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, sales tax receipts are beginning to stabilize for the City of Humble.

Overall, the sales tax revenue has only gone down by about 7 percent year-over-year.

In the initial months of the coronavirus pandemic, City Manager Jason Stuebe said they were preparing for the worst — a 40 percent reduction in revenue.

“Anywhere less than 10 percent is almost the normal flow that we’ve been experiencing here in the last few years just as a matter of trend,” Stuebe said.


In fact, Humble saw year-over-year growth in sales tax receipts released in October and August, sandwiched between a small decline in sales tax revenue in September’s report. This was a stark contrast to the report for June, the worst month for sales taxes this year, where there was a nearly 24 percent decrease in sales tax revenue year-over-year.

The sales tax report represents receipts from two months prior, so June’s numbers reflect sales from April, when cities and states across the nation were shutdown.

A decrease in sales tax is never good, but it is not unusual to see a slight dip in revenue, Stuebe said. Sales tax revenue usually sits somewhere between $12.75 million and $13.25 million according to Stuebe.

Sorting sales tax

A complete list of the city of Humble’s sales tax data shows the impacts of the coronavirus on business. The sales tax reported for each month is for two months prior, so October numbers reflect August sales.

October: $1,033,010

October 2019: $1,030,809

0.214% Increase

September: $1,053,045

September 2019: $1,069,003

1.493% Decrease

August: $1,311,543

August 2019: $1,216,174

7.942% Increase

July: $965,321

July 2019: $1,046,909

7.793% Decrease

June: $802,063

June 2019: $1,054,396

23.932% Decrease

May: $992,595

May 2019: $1,228,859

19.226% Decrease

April: $955,380

April 2019: $973,039

2.814% Decrease


“I think we peak somewhere around 14 million dollars annually in sales tax revenue. That was probably the best year that we’ve ever had, and it’s kind of trickled back down to around the $13 million mark.”

In Humble, sales tax represents the highest contributor of revenue to the budget at just under 43 percent of the total. Massive shopping outlets like Deerbrook Mall and the other strip centers with big box retailers along Hwy. 59 provide a big slice of funding for the Humble budget.

Things started to look up in May when stores were pivoting into the new normal of the pandemic and as Governor Greg Abbott started to open the state back up, Stuebe said. Deerbrook Mall and restaurants reopened initially with curbside and to-go options.

If the 7 percent decrease were to continue for two or three more years, that would be of concern. Stuebe said the city was able to “absorb the initial hit” and have started to operate normally now but continue to closely watch the data.

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A Sustainable Alternative to Blanket Lockdowns

As cities around the world—including Auckland, Jakarta, Melbourne and Tel Aviv—have entered seemingly endless cycles of lockdowns and viral resurgences, there is a pressing need to reassess this lockdown strategy given the economic, social and psychological damage it wreaks.  Blanket lockdowns may be effective, but they are blunt and brutal tools. As this pandemic wears on, possibly for months or even years to come, we need a sustainable alternative that involves more targeted measures that are evidence-based and data-driven.

This pandemic has repeatedly proven that amid crisis comes opportunity. Being the first pandemic to break out in an intensely digitalizing and hyperconnected world, COVID-19 and its spread can be dissected using the big data that grow more voluminous by the day. Such data, aggregated from multiple sources, are game-changing in helping us identify “superspreader locales,” so that instead of locking down entire cities, we can take the more sustainable approach of shutting down or reconfiguring specific locations with high potential to trigger outbreaks.

Principally, certain locations, like people, can be spatial superspreaders, and big data are vital for identifying these weak spatial links. Because cities constantly hum with activity, where people transit, meet, mingle and disperse, they are centers of convergence for human interaction and disease propagation. Mapping the interplay between patterns of human mobility in and through cities with the contours of human co-presence activity is thus critical for managing all disease outbreaks, big or small.

Encouragingly, we have various illuminating sources of human mobility data at our disposal to identify vulnerable locations beset by the dangerous confluence of high human traffic, intense social interaction, and epidemiological conditions favorable to disease spread. These include urban analytics data capturing ground transportation trips. In cities such as Hong Kong, Paris and Singapore, such transportation data are systematically analyzed for improved urban and mobility planning. Newer data streams from ride-sharing services, Internet of Things–connected devices including smart lampposts and smartphones running traffic apps, and social media posts with geolocation data, can also help to map where human mobility patterns, human co-presence activity and epidemic spread intersect.

Such valuable data on human activity can then be processed on the basis of the latest available epidemiological evidence of COVID-19 spread. Although this disease has been marked by numerous confounding factors, some facts are now well-established, such as that brief encounters outdoors are less risky than extensive interactions in closed quarters. Furthermore, there is now a wide expert consensus about the effectiveness of pervasive mask-wearing and social distancing measures.

Nonetheless, our fragmentary understanding of the interplay between COVID-19 transmissions and human social interaction in various settings is the principal challenge to developing a detailed map of all infection pathways across a range of social groups and activities. To devise targeted containment strategies in urban settings, it is imperative to advance our knowledge about this complex interplay.

New evidence is being rapidly gathered, thereby creating a useful knowledge base for local governments and health departments to adapt, refine and sharpen their prevention and containment strategies. By

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Covid-19 Lockdowns Don’t Have to Be All or Nothing

Parts of the arsenal.

Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

As the coronavirus pandemic continues its sweep through the U.S., India and Brazil, the dreaded second wave is now gathering strength in nations that had once contained the virus. Numbers are rocketing upward, especially in Europe, even as winter approaches, which will bring the added burden of seasonal illnesses such as influenza. Attempting to tamp things down, and to avoid overwhelming their health services, authorities in France, Germany and the U.K. are now considering stronger social distancing measures, with others — including in Ireland and Israel — ordering short, strict “circuit breaker” lockdowns.

Yet if anything is as ineradicable as the coronavirus, it’s the fervid conviction of many that strict lockdowns actually bring worse consequences than Covid-19 itself. The lockdown skeptics — which include some scientists — argue that lockdowns entail massive economic damage as well as disruption to social communities and an increase in inequality. We’d be better off, they claim, if we instead aimed for herd immunity by letting the virus infect the young and healthy while protecting the vulnerable.

Some have portrayed the debate as reflecting a growing scientific divide, although this is far from the case. Almost all public health authorities come down against the herd immunity idea. Unfortunately, too much of the debate has been marred by confusion over why and when epidemiologists think lockdowns can play a beneficial role, and why the skeptics’ vision falls short.

It’s fair to say that both sides of the debate have at times misrepresented their opponents. Some lockdown skeptics make it seem as if proponents favor permanent lockdown until a vaccine comes along, whereas most see lockdowns as a drastic tool to be used over short periods of time — an emergency step, like dropping the control rods into a nuclear reactor about to melt down. Meanwhile, skeptics are criticized for wanting to just “let things rip,” too bad about the old and susceptible — yet most actually emphasize trying to protect the vulnerable. 

Get past the politics, and some numbers help bring one thing into focus: why, in the absence of a coronavirus vaccine, lockdowns may be essential. Epidemics grow fast, and there’s an inherent asymmetry between the ups and downs of the numbers: Without excellent testing and tracing, it takes a very strict lockdown to get numbers falling, whereas achieving explosive growth in cases is very easy.

Take the U.K., for example. Its cases have risen steadily since mid-August, after earlier restrictions were relaxed and the government encouraged people to return to work. On Sept. 21, government scientists projected a worst-case scenario of around 50,000 new cases a day by mid-October in the absence of new restrictions, and they were lambasted by skeptics for spreading fear. Yet even this worst-case picture wasn’t too far off. With new cases now at 20,000 a day and doubling every seven to 10 days, the U.K. could reach that 50,000-a-day mark quite soon — and soar well beyond it thereafter.

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