New WMO Report: Greenhouse Gas Levels Reached Record High In 2013

Chuck Bednar for – Your Universe Online
Propelled by the largest single-year increase in carbon dioxide in three decades, the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached record highs in 2013, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reported on Tuesday.
According to the agency’s annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, there was a 34 percent increase in radiative forcing (the warming effect on our climate) due to CO2, methane and nitrous oxide. The report found that CO2 concentration was 142 percent of the pre-industrial levels in 2013, while methane was 253 percent those levels and nitrous oxide was 121 percent.
Overall carbon dioxide levels were 396.0 parts per million (ppm) in 2013, noted Tom Miles of Reuters. That represents a 2.9 ppm increase over 2012 – the largest since reliable global records were first kept in 1984. Methane reached a global average of 1824 parts per billion (ppb), while nitrous oxide reached 325.9 ppb, he added.
“We know without any doubt that our climate is changing and our weather is becoming more extreme due to human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels,” Michel Jarraud, secretary-general of the UN’s meteorological advisory agency, said in a statement. “The Greenhouse Gas Bulletin shows that, far from falling, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere actually increased last year at the fastest rate for nearly 30 years.”
“We must reverse this trend by cutting emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases across the board. We are running out of time,” he added. “Carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for many hundreds of years and in the ocean for even longer. Past, present and future CO2 emissions will have a cumulative impact on both global warming and ocean acidification. The laws of physics are non-negotiable.”
Washington Post reporter Joby Warrick explained that this latest batch of WMO statistics are important because they do not just take into account the amount of CO2 injected into the atmosphere by humans, but also the complex natural interaction between manmade gases and the environment. Historically, Warrick said, plants and the ocean have absorbed roughly half of these gases, keeping temperatures from rising as quickly as they potentially could.
“If the oceans and the biosphere cannot absorb as much carbon, the effect on the atmosphere could be much worse,” Oksana Tarasova, a scientist and chief of the WMO’s Global Atmospheric Watch program, told Warrick. She added that the new CO2 figures were particularly “drastic,” as the increase of nearly 3 ppm was twice as large as the average carbon increase in recent decades. “We are seeing the growth rate rising exponentially.”
This latest Greenhouse Gas Bulletin is also the first such report to include a section devoted solely to ocean acidification, said Chisaki Watanabe of Bloomberg Businessweek. Ocean acidification is the process by which human-generated CO2 makes its way from the atmosphere into the world’s oceans and causes them to become more acidic, and according to Watanabe, the report states that the current rate appears to have reached unprecedented levels in comparison to the last 300 million years.
“The inclusion of a section on ocean acidification in this issue of WMO’s Greenhouse Gas Bulletin is appropriate and needed,” said Wendy Watson-Wright, Executive Secretary of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO. “It is high time the ocean, as the primary driver of the planet’s climate and attenuator of climate change, becomes a central part of climate change discussions.”
“If global warming is not a strong enough reason to cut CO2 emissions, ocean acidification should be, since its effects are already being felt and will increase for many decades to come. I echo WMO Secretary General Jarraud’s concern – we ARE running out of time,” she added.