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expert reaction to the WMO Greenhouse Gas Bulletin

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has published its report on the state of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere based on global observations through 2020.


Dr Alison Ming, Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellow & Coordinator of the Cambridge Centre for Climate Science, University of Cambridge, said:

“Levels of carbon dioxide are at record high. In the seminal 1967 work of the recent Physics Nobel Prize winner, Syukuro Manabe, the authors imposed a ‘high’ carbon dioxide value of 600 ppmv but now this world does not seem so far away from the 413 ppmv recorded in 2020.  

“Levels of methane are also rising alarmingly fast, and the emissions are accelerating. The increase from 2019 to 2020 was higher than the preceding year and higher than the average annual growth rate over the last decade.  There needs to be a clear focus at COP26 not just on reductions of carbon dioxide emissions but also on reductions of other greenhouse gases if we are to prevent further devastating effects of climate change.”


Prof Euan Nisbet, Greenhouse Gas Group, Royal Holloway, said:

“Greenhouse gas measurements are like skidding into a car crash. The disaster gets closer and closer but you can’t stop it.  You can clearly see the crash ahead, and all you can do is howl. Round the world the US NOAA network and colleagues in the UN Global Atmosphere Watch keep up their careful work of measurement and each year the reports get worse. Carbon dioxide keeps climbing, despite the pandemic. Nitrous oxide, laughing gas – the forgotten nightmare gas – rises sharply, even while our cream cakes are carelessly puffed and our streets are littered with abandoned little steel gas canisters. Especially worrying is the extreme growth of methane – the strongest growth in the measurement record, which suggests strong feedbacks may be at work, the warming feeding the warming. The world owes thanks to NOAA and the UN for these patient reports: if only we could listen to them!”


Prof Dave Reay, Director of Edinburgh Climate Change Institute and Chair in Carbon Management & Education, University of Edinburgh, said:

“A big question of COP26 in Glasgow is ‘what will success look like?’. More money for global climate action? Bigger commitments from China and India? An international elbow bump on agreeing the geeky intricacies of ‘Article 6’ and the rule book for implementing the Paris Agreement?

“They’d all be good. But the true success, or failure, of COP26 will be written in our skies in the form of greenhouse gas concentrations.

“This new report from the WMO provides a brutally frank assessment of what’s been written there to date. So far, it’s an epic fail.

“The small window of opportunity to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations at a level that meets the Paris Climate Goals is about to vanish. Will this 26th COP find success where the previous 25 have fallen short? Our atmosphere will bear witness.”


Dr Heather Graven, Reader in Climate Physics, at Imperial College London, said:

“These atmospheric measurements provide hard evidence that, rather than slowing climate change, we are accelerating it. Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are increasing faster than ever. It is crucial that COP26 succeeds in ramping up mitigation efforts across the globe.”



‘The WMO Greenhouse Gas Bulletin: The State of Greenhouse Gases in the Atmosphere Based on Global Observations through 2020’ was shared by the WMO at 10:00 UK time on Monday 25th October.



Declared interests

Dr Alison Ming: “no conflicts of interest.”

Prof Dave Reay: “No interests declared.”

None others received.

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