Greenhouse Gas Hit Record High in 2011 Says UN
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Greenhouse gas levels, which are capable of driving global warming over the coming decades, reached new highs in 2011, according to a new report by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), a United Nations agency.
The volume of carbon dioxide grew by two parts per million (ppm) to reach 390.9 ppm, about 40 percent above the pre-industrial level, the survey said. The survey added that the levels of two other greenhouse gases, methane and nitrous oxide, increased by about 0.3 percent in 2011. Nitrous oxide, it should be noted, has an impact on global warming 298 times greater than carbon dioxide.
These three gases, which are the products of human activity like deforestation and intensive agriculture, increased the warming effect on the climate by 30 percent between 1990 and 2011, according to the WMO.
The main driver of rising carbon dioxide levels, the burning of fossil fuels, has resulted in the release of 413 billion tons of carbon being released into the atmosphere since the industrial revolution began in the mid eighteenth century, the WMO said.
“These billions of tonnes of additional carbon dioxide in our atmosphere will remain there for centuries, causing our planet to warm further and impacting on all aspects of life on Earth,” WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said in a statement. “Future emissions will only compound the situation.”
Jarraud said that increasing levels of carbon dioxide have different yet negative impacts both on land and in the sea.
“We have already seen that the oceans are becoming more acidic as a result of the carbon dioxide uptake, with potential repercussions for the underwater food chain and coral reefs,” he said.
While carbon dioxide and methane are the most prominent greenhouse gasses currently increasing in volume, other lesser-known gases are also growing fast, says the report.
Sulphur hexafluoride, which is used in power delivery equipment, has doubled in amount since the mid-1990s, while hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) were also seen growing at a rapid rates.
The report also noted some good news on the emissions front, stating chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and most halon levels decreasing.
Jarraud also pointed out that the Earth´s capacity for mitigating the damage caused by these emissions could be waning.
“Until now, carbon sinks have absorbed nearly half of the carbon dioxide humans emitted in the atmosphere, but this will not necessarily continue in the future,” he said. “There are many additional interactions between greenhouse gases, Earth´s biosphere and oceans, and we need to boost our monitoring capability and scientific knowledge in order to better understand these.”
The report comes as UN climate treaty representatives gather in Doha, Qatar next week for talks focused on extending emissions-limiting targets under the Kyoto Protocol, and to lay the groundwork for a new climate treaty that participants hope will take effect in 2020.
Several countries with emerging economies, including China, Brazil and India, are calling for the emissions targets to be pushed back during the course of the negotiations. If a deal extending the Kyoto Protocol cannot be reached, the world will be without a global climate treaty until 2020.