Analysis. Such high values of CO2 have not been seen in 2 million years. Emissions aren’t slowing: In Italy they are up 6 percent in the first nine months of the year, according to ENEA estimates.

CO2 emissions reach an all-time record

It’s the first time this has happened in 2 million years: the average CO2 concentration in the atmosphere in 2022 was 417 ppm (parts per million), 2.1 ppm higher than the previous year and the highest since a time so long ago that human beings struggle to even imagine.

This piece of data was presented on Tuesday by the European Commission’s climate observatory, the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), which unveiled its 2022 Global Climate Highlights report. In addition to carbon dioxide, also of concern is the average concentration of methane, which came in at 1894 ppb (parts per billion), 12 ppb higher than in 2021. Again, these are the highest concentrations ever recorded by satellites and the highest levels of methane in more than 800,000 years.

Vincent-Henri Peuch, Director of the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service, explained – if there was still a need to do so – that “Greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide and methane, are the main drivers of climate change,” adding that “we can see from our monitoring activities that atmospheric concentrations are continuing to rise with no signs of slowing.”

They’re not slowing because emissions are not slowing. On the contrary, in Italy they are up 6 percent in the first nine months of the year, according to ENEA estimates. This is linked to the sharp increase in oil and coal consumption (which has brought fossil fuel sources back up to account for a share of more than 77 percent of primary energy, compared to less than 75 percent in the first nine months of 2021). Coal is used to produce electricity, including partly covering the shortfall from the collapse of hydroelectric production (-38% over the same nine months), a collapse that is the result of extreme drought, another of the effects of climate change that hit Italy in 2022, along with extreme temperatures in some months.

It’s not a coincidence that in Italy, 2022 was the hottest year since 1950. The same is also true for France, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and much of the Balkan Peninsula. We have experienced it day by day, and now the 2022 Global Climate Highlights data confirms it. Europe has experienced its hottest summer on record (note that the previous record was set in 2021), and several intense and prolonged heat waves hit parts of Western and Northern Europe.

The fall was the third warmest on record, surpassed only by 2020 and 2006, while winter temperatures were about 1°C above average. In terms of monthly temperature averages, nine months were above average, while three (March, April and September) were below average. The continent recorded its second warmest June on record, at about 1.6°C above average, and its warmest October, with temperatures nearly 2°C above average.

On average, temperatures for the year in Europe were the second-warmest on record, surpassed only by 2020. All of Europe, with the exception of Iceland, recorded annual temperatures above the 1991-2020 average. “2022 was yet another year of climate extremes across Europe and globally. […] These events highlight that we are already experiencing the devastating consequences of our warming world. […] The latest 2022 Climate Highlights from C3S provides clear evidence that avoiding the worst consequences will require society to both urgently reduce carbon emissions and swiftly adapt to the changing climate,” commented Samantha Burgess, deputy director of the Copernicus Climate Change Service.

On the global level, the world experienced its fifth-warmest year on record in 2022, according to data from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasting. In the ranking, 2022 comes right after 2016, 2020, 2019, and 2017. The average annual temperature in 2022 was 0.3°C higher than the 1991-2020 reference period, which is about 1.2°C higher than the 1850-1900 period typically used to identify the pre-industrial era condition. This makes 2022 the eighth consecutive year with temperatures more than 1°C above the pre-industrial level.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Your weekly briefing of progressive news.

You have Successfully Subscribed!