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WMO Report: Greenhouse Gases Reach Record Levels

November 25, 2010

Concentrations of greenhouse gases approached record levels in 2009 and could set off even greater methane emissions from the Arctic, the UN’s weather agency warned Wednesday.

“Greenhouse gas concentrations have reached record levels despite the economic slowdown. They would have been even higher without the international action taken to reduce them,” Michael Jarraud, secretary general of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), said in a Wednesday press release.

“In addition, potential methane release from northern permafrost, and wetlands, under future climate change is of great concern and is becoming a focus of intensive research and observations,” Jarraud added.

The WMO reported that carbon dioxide concentrations reached 386.8 parts per million in 2009, a 38 percent increase from pre-industrial times. The second most important greenhouse gas, methane, reached 1,803 parts per billion, up a staggering 158 percent from pre-industrial times.

The WMO said atmospheric methane slowed down from 1999 to 2006, and then began increasing again from 2007 to 2009.

“There are two possible reasons for that — in 2007, there was a warmer Arctic which produced a lot of extra emissions, plus in 2007 and 2008, there was an increase in precipitations in the tropicals,” Oksana Tarasova, a scientist with the WMO, told the AFP news agency.

“We don’t know the proportions which work more. It’s difficult to distinguish between these two particular sources,” she said, adding that it is unclear if the trend will continue in 2011.

“If we continue business as usual, we will not achieve the level of atmospheric concentration that would allow a two degree Celsius target,” Len Barrie, co-director at WMO’s research department, told AFP, referring to a bid to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 F) above pre-industrial temperatures.

In order to start decreasing the levels of greenhouse gases, it would be necessary to totally eliminate emissions, he added. This means that the usage of fossil energy should be halted.

Delegates from 194 countries meet in the Cancun, Mexico from November 29 to December 10 to attempt to strike a deal on cutting greenhouse gases.

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