Greenhouse Gases at Record Levels, WMO Reports

Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere continue to climb and are not showing signs of slowing, according to a report by the World Meteorological Organization.

By Isabel Putinja
Dec. 3, 2018 08:13 UTC

The World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO) lat­est Greenhouse Gas Bulletin reveals that green­house gases in the atmos­phere con­tinue to rise and have reached a record high.

Without rapid cuts in CO2 and other green­house gases, cli­mate change will have increas­ingly destruc­tive and irre­versible impacts on life on Earth.- World Meteorological Organization

The lev­els of car­bon diox­ide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide are now far above pre-indus­trial lev­els. Unfortunately, this upward trend is not show­ing signs of rever­sal and global tem­per­a­tures are ris­ing as a result.
See Also:Olive Oil Production Gives Back to Environment More than it Takes

The sci­ence is clear. Without rapid cuts in CO2 and other green­house gases, cli­mate change will have increas­ingly destruc­tive and irre­versible impacts on life on Earth. The win­dow of oppor­tu­nity for action is almost closed,” warned Petteri Taalas, the WMO’s sec­re­tary gen­eral in a November 20 press release. The last time the Earth expe­ri­enced a com­pa­ra­ble con­cen­tra­tion of CO2 was 3 to 5 mil­lion years ago when the tem­per­a­ture was 2 – 3°C warmer and sea level was 10 – 20 meters higher than now,” added Taalas.

The WMO Greenhouse Gas Bulletin reports on the con­cen­tra­tion of green­house gases in the atmos­phere, i.e. the con­cen­tra­tion of gases which remain in the atmos­phere after about half is absorbed by the ocean and the bios­phere (one quar­ter each).

The authors of this UN agency report are mete­o­rol­ogy experts and researchers whose con­clu­sions are based on obser­va­tions of the WMO Global Atmosphere Watch Programme which mon­i­tors and analy­ses green­house gases on the basis of data received from 53 coun­tries.

The report reveals that in 2017, lev­els of car­bon diox­ide, the main green­house gas in the atmos­phere, reached a global aver­age of 405.5 parts per mil­lion, 146 per­cent of the pre-indus­trial era. Forty per­cent of the methane absorbed into the atmos­phere comes from nat­ural sources, while 60 per­cent is man-made and the result of cat­tle farm­ing, rice cul­ti­va­tion, fos­sil fuels, land­fills and bio­mass burn­ing.

As for the level of methane in the atmos­phere, this was at 1,859 parts per bil­lion in 2017, and at 257 per­cent of the pre-indus­trial level.

Nitrous oxide is another green­house gas pro­duced by both nat­ural (60 per­cent) and man-made (40 per­cent) ele­ments like the use of fer­til­iz­ers, indus­trial processes and the burn­ing of bio­mass. In 2017, the con­cen­tra­tion of this gas in the atmos­phere was 329.9 parts per bil­lion, 122 per­cent of pre-indus­trial lev­els.

These three green­house gases trap heat in the atmos­phere, a phe­nom­e­non that’s lead­ing to cli­mate change, ris­ing sea lev­els, extreme weather pat­terns and ocean acid­i­fi­ca­tion — a decrease in the pH of the ocean due to increased CO2 in the atmos­phere. The ris­ing lev­els of green­house gases are attrib­uted to indus­tri­al­iza­tion, the use of fos­sil fuels, inten­sive farm­ing and defor­esta­tion.

The report also reveals that an ille­gal chem­i­cal called CFC-11, banned in 1987 under the Montreal Protocol, is still in use. This chlo­ro­flu­o­ro­car­bon is also a green­house gas that destroys the stratos­pheric ozone layer. In the past decade its use has fallen, but since 2012 this decline has slowed down by two thirds due to the con­tin­u­ing pro­duc­tion of CFC-11 in China and specif­i­cally its polyurethane foam indus­try.

The WMO’s bul­letin fol­lows the report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) pub­lished in October. Global Warming of 1.5 °C” exam­ined the impacts of global warm­ing and warned that net human-caused CO2 emis­sions must reach zero by 2050 to min­i­mize tem­per­a­ture increases to below 1.5°C. The 2016 Paris Agreement on cli­mate change set the goal to limit a rise in world tem­per­a­tures to below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2030.

Both of these impor­tant reports have the scope to inform deci­sion-mak­ing dur­ing the upcom­ing UN Climate Change Conference due to be held in Katowice, Poland from 2 – 14 December 2018.

Research has found that the pro­duc­tion of olive oil, using the right farm­ing tech­niques, can con­tribute sig­nif­i­cantly to reduc­ing green­house gas emis­sions.


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