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Greenhouse Gases in Atmosphere Reach All-Time High

  • Lisa Schlein

FILE - Giant machines dig for brown coal at the open-cast mining Garzweiler in front of a smoking power plant near the city of Grevenbroich in western Germany.

FILE - Giant machines dig for brown coal at the open-cast mining Garzweiler in front of a smoking power plant near the city of Grevenbroich in western Germany.

The World Meteorological Organization reports a surge in levels of carbon dioxide pushed the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to a record high last year. The U.N. Agency warns continuing emissions of CO2 will have a huge impact on global warming.

The World Meteorological Organization reports the rate of increase of CO2 in the atmosphere is the largest in 30 years. In addition, it notes two other important greenhouse gases, methane and nitrous oxide, also are continuing to grow.

WMO Secretary-General, Michel Jarraud says this is not good news. He notes CO2 accounts for 80 percent of the 34 percent increase in the warming of the atmosphere from 1990 to 2013. He says the increasing concentration of CO2 is a worrying signal.

“The other thing, which is worrying is that CO2 stays in the atmosphere for a very long period - hundreds of years. So, even if we could stop the emissions tomorrow what has been injected in the atmosphere, a significant fraction would stay in the atmosphere for a very long period ... hundreds to thousands of years," said Jarraud.

Jarraud says about 25 percent of what is emitted by human activity is absorbed by the ocean, another quarter by the biosphere, and the rest remains in the atmosphere. He warns past, present and future CO2 emissions will have a cumulative impact on both global warming and ocean acidification.

He says that time is not on “our side.” He warns, the longer it takes to tackle this issue, the more challenging it will become.

“Concentration are reaching higher and higher value. And, therefore, it will require stronger and stronger action to avoid the climate changes to be so big that adaptation will be either more difficult, in some cases impossible, and in any case more expensive," he said.

Jarraud says there is no doubt the climate is changing and weather is becoming more extreme due to human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels. He says action is still possible, but it will take bold and courageous decisions on the part of nations.

He says the world has the knowledge and the tools to keep temperature increases within two degrees centigrade. He says concerted international action must be taken for the sake of the planet and for that of future generations.

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