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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The economic downturn had no clear effect on either the atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases in 2020 and 2021 or how quickly they climbed, a new UN report finds.

Why it matters: The findings of the World Meteorological Organization's (WMO) Greenhouse Gas Bulletin are another alarm bell ringing louder ahead of the COP26 summit.

Details: The official 2020 annual level of carbon dioxide (CO2) in Earth's atmosphere was 413.2 parts per million, which is 149% of the preindustrial reading, the report found. This was a 2.5 ppm increase from 2019.

  • The year-over-year climb was faster than the 2011-2020 average annual rise of 2.4 ppm.
  • The findings also show that methane, another powerful global warming pollutant, is at 262% of preindustrial levels, and recently has been increasing at faster rates.
  • About half of the CO2 put into the atmosphere by human activities, such as burning fossil fuels and cutting down forests, is taken up each year by the land and oceans. The rest can stay in the air for hundreds of years.
  • There are mounting signs that so-called carbon sinks may become less effective as global warming's impacts mount, from droughts to warming and acidifying oceans, the report warns.

What's next: Data from 2021 shows continued rapid increases in greenhouse gas concentrations, with a monthly peak at Hawaii's Mauna Loa Observatory precariously close to 420 ppm.

Go deeper

The most startling facts in 2021 climate report

An unsettling part of the human condition today is that the year you were born will most likely be the coolest year of your life, globally speaking.

By the numbers: Newly released climate data from NOAA, NASA and Berkeley Earth show that the planet has had an unbroken streak of 45 years of warmer than average temperatures.

Thousands without power as "hazardous" winter storm lashes East Coast

Winter view from Charlotte as winter storm Izzy creates dangerous conditions in Charlotte, N.C. on Jan. 16. Photo: Peter Zay/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A major winter storm was lashing much of the East Coast on Sunday, causing widespread power outages and disrupting travel over the holiday weekend.

The big picture: Heavy snow and ice accumulations are "likely to produce hazardous travel," downed trees and more power outages from the Mid-South to the Northeast, per the National Weather Service. Some parts of the U.S. can expect to see up to a foot of snow through Monday.

Updated 35 mins ago - Politics & Policy

British national named in Colleyville synagogue standoff

A law enforcement vehicle sits near the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue on Jan. 16. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

British national Malik Faisal Akram took four people hostage at a Texas synagogue outside Fort Worth on Saturday, the FBI said in a statement.

The latest: Greater Manchester Police, in Northwest England, tweeted on Sunday night that officers had arrested and detained two teenagers in South Manchester for questioning in relation to the siege in Colleyville, Texas, "as part of the ongoing investigation into the attack."