November 22, 2011
Greenhouse Gases Reach Record Highs, WMO Reports
Carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide levels reached record highs in 2010, surpassing what experts had previously called the worst-case scenario for these greenhouse gases, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) announced on Monday.
The WMO, which is the U.N.'s weather agency, reported that CO2 levels increased by 2.3 parts per million, to 389 ppm, from 2009 to last year, according to Reuters reporter Tom Miles. That single-year increase exceeds the average for both the 1990s (1.5 ppm) and the 2000s (2.0 ppm), he added.
Furthermore, in a November 21 press release, WMO officials said that there "a 29% increase in radiative forcing - the warming effect on our climate system - from greenhouse gases," and while carbon dioxide accounts for approximately four-fifths of that increase, the roles of methane and nitrous oxide cannot be overlooked either.
In fact, according to the organization, methane is "the second most important greenhouse gas" behind CO2, and over a period of 100 years, nitrous oxide has a "298 times greater" impact on the planet's climate than carbon dioxide. Combined these two gases are responsible for contributing nearly 25% of the overall global increase in radiative forcing since 1750, the WMO reports.
According to Telegraph Science Correspondent Nick Collins, "The concentration levels published yesterday are even greater than the worst of seven possible emission scenarios predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2001," and according to Miles, the situation is so dire that "concentrations of the three main greenhouse gases“¦ will linger in the atmosphere for decades, even if the world stops emissions output today."
"Now more than ever before, we need to understand the complex, and sometimes unexpected, interactions between greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, Earth´s biosphere and oceans," WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said in a statement.
"WMO will continue to collect data to further our scientific knowledge through its Global Atmosphere Watch network spanning more than 50 countries, including stations high in the Andes and Himalayas, in the remote expanses of Alaska and in the far South Pacific," he added.
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