Record greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere

The amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached a new record high in 2013, according to a report from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) published on Tuesday. At the same time, the emissions absorbed by the oceans are leading to an “unprecedented” rate of acidification.

The annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin showed that the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere increased more between 2012 and 2013 than during any other year over the past 30 years. On the global scale, the CO2 concentrations reached 396 parts per million in 2013, or 142 per cent of the pre-industrial era (1750). Methane and nitrous oxide rose 253 per cent and 121 per cent respectively from the pre-industrial era.

“We know without any doubt that our climate is changing and our weather is becoming more extreme due to human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels,” said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud. We must reverse this trend by cutting emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases across the board,” he said. “We are running out of time.”

Equally alarming is how the report shows that between 1990 and 2013 there was a 34 per cent increase in radiative forcing – the warming effect on our climate – because of long-lived greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. And while the oceans are absorbing about a quarter of the total emissions, thus reducing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, they do so with far-reaching impacts: The current rate of ocean acidification appears unprecedented at least over the last 300 million years, according to an analysis in the report.

“Past, present and future CO2 emissions will have a cumulative impact on both global warming and ocean acidification. The laws of physics are non-negotiable,” said Jarraud.


Photo credit: glennia, flickr/Creative Commons

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