November 7, 2013
Record Carbon Dioxide Levels In 2012, Methane Off The Charts
Alan McStravick for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
If you are a fan of random violence occurring worldwide, a new report out this week is right up your alley. While we learned earlier this year that 2012 was the ninth warmest year since 1880, this week we were greeted with news that greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, hit record highs in that same year.
Specifically, carbon dioxide levels have increased a full 41 percent since the start of the industrial era. Nitrous oxide, in that same time, has jumped 20 percent. However, the increase of methane levels was most shocking, seeing a staggering 160 percent rise in our atmosphere. As was recognized in August of this year, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stated, in the most definitive language used to date, that it is “extremely likely” the current drastic change in climate is predominantly man made.
"The observations from WMO's extensive Global Atmosphere Watch network highlight yet again how heat-trapping gases from human activities have upset the natural balance of our atmosphere and are a major contribution to climate change," said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud in a statement.
"It is a worry. The more we delay action the bigger the risk we cannot stay under the 2 degree Celsius [3.6F] limit that countries have agreed," he said.
The WMO did caution that the cause of the surge in methane levels in our atmosphere is, as yet, unknown. In the report, they claim it is not yet possible to attribute the increases to either human activities (eg. cattle breeding or landfills) or natural sources such as wetlands.
The report did suggest they understand from where on the globe the increase in methane is originating. The tropical and mid-latitude northern hemispheric regions are most likely responsible for the increase and not the Arctic, where the release of methane from permafrost thaw and hydrate loss has long been a concern for climatologists.
With nations around the globe signing onto treaties like the Kyoto Protocol, current research has provided data which indicates the rate of increase in emissions has been steadily slowing down. However, even with a noted decrease in emissions, so-called greenhouse gases remain concentrated in our atmosphere where they can negatively impact global temperature and climate for hundreds if not thousands of years.
The last decade and a half had seen a slowing in the rate of temperature increases. However, with the data released this week by the WMO, scientists believe global warming is due to return, and in catastrophic form.
"The laws of physics and chemistry are not negotiable," said Jarraud.
"Greenhouse gases are what they are, the laws of physics show they can only contribute to warming the system, but parts of this heat may go in different places like the oceans for some periods of time," he said.
This potentially dire news elicited alarm from Peter Wadhams, Professor of Ocean Physics at the University of Cambridge. “[It is now] impossible for the planet to avoid catastrophic global warming effects, even if we make a start now on reducing CO2 emissions.
“It may well be an urgent matter to consider use of geoengineering techniques to slow down global warming, and to conduct urgent research on whether any method can be developed to actually take CO2 out of the atmosphere,” he concluded.