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expert reaction to projected CO2 levels for 2019

Reactions to projected CO2 levels for 2019 as issued by the UK Met Office.

Prof Julienne Stroeve, Professor of Polar Observation & Modelling at UCL, said:

“This is discouraging for sure. Last year the extra CO2 was equivalent to melting about 110,000 square kilometres of Arctic sea ice, or roughly 3 times the size of Switzerland. Sea ice loss is directly tied to increases in atmospheric CO2.  To keep the chances below 5% of a summer without sea ice, we have to keep global future emissions below 500 Gt of CO2.”

Dr Tom Chalk, Research Fellow in Ocean and Earth Science at the University of Southampton, said:

“With this uptick in the rate of CO2 increase this year, we are continuing to head towards CO2 concentrations not seen in the geological record since the warmest Pliocene, 3 million years ago, and accelerating rapidly on to even hotter time periods.”  

Dr Anna Jones, Atmospheric Chemist at British Antarctic Survey, said:

“The increases in CO2 are a function of our continued reliance on fossil fuels. Some tempering in the rate of increase arise from the Earth’s ability to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere, but that can change year-on-year as the Met Office forecast shows. What’s critical, however, is that the persistent rise in atmospheric CO2 is entirely at odds with the ambition to limit Global Warming to 1.5C. We need to see a reduction in the rate of CO2 emissions, not an increase. To achieve a 1.5C limit, we need to reach ‘net zero’ around 2050 – i.e. we need drastic reductions in CO2 emissions, and we need that soon.”

Prof Corinne Le Quéré, Professor of Climate Change Science, University of East Anglia, said:

“CO2 will continue to increase in the atmosphere until we succeed to reduce our emissions to near zero. This means reducing emissions in cars and vans, homes and buildings, and industries, and planting trees. The rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere changes the natural carbon cycle and has consequences for the capacity of the land and oceans to store carbon. The projection for this year shows clearly how growing emissions combined with weaker carbon sinks leads to faster CO2 rise in the air.  The quicker we decrease our emissions, the less risk we take of amplification of climate change from carbon cycle feedbacks.”

Prof Dave Reay, Chair in Carbon Management, University of Edinburgh, said:

“It never rains but it pours. Our own carbon dioxide emissions are still increasing, and now the world’s natural carbon sinks are set for a bad year too. This will mean even more carbon added to our fast-warming atmosphere. We know these ‘sinks’ – the plants, soils and oceans – have been mopping up around half of all our emissions to date. We can only hope their faltering in 2019 is just a short-term blip, as without their help the Paris Climate Goals and any chance of a safer climate future will turn to dust.”

Prof Nick Ostle from the Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University, said:

“This news from the Met Office is worrying and compelling. It is evidence of the inexorable progress of greenhouse gas driven climate change and a reminder that we need to focus internationally on agreements to curtail and manage global CO2 emissions whilst enhancing biological carbon sinks. It represents a call to innovate with rapid and radical responses to offset these growing emissions. We need to reduce emissions from fossil fuel use, increase soil carbon sequestration to ‘lock-up’ CO2, decelerate deforestation and land conversion, and promote less polluting more sustainable agriculture. It’s a massive challenge but there are real opportunities to make an impact individually and globally.”

Dr Dann Mitchell, Senior Lecturer in Atmospheric Science, University of Bristol, said:

“The problem here is that once CO2 is released into the atmosphere it stays there for a very long time, and a large proportion will remain for thousands of years.  So while the Met Office is forecasting yet another increase in CO2 for the near future, the repercussions will also be felt for tens of generations. We know that increased CO2 warms the climate, and critically changes our extreme weather patterns, so we can expect these to remain changed on this timescale as well.”

Prof Jos Barlow, Professor of Conservation Science at the Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University, said:

“This has been a particularly bad year for carbon emissions from tropical forests. Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon increased to around 8000square kilometres in 2018, which is equivalent to losing a football pitch of forest every 30 seconds.  This alone would result in CO2 emissions that exceed those from the UK over the same time period. There are also worrying signs that deforestation is occurring at a faster rate in other Amazonian countries, such as Colombia, Bolivia and Peru.”

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