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Greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere hit record level in 2016 - WMO

Tue 31 October 2017 | Back to news list

The World Meteorological Organisation says that without rapid cuts in CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions, we are heading for dangerous temperature increases by the end of this century. The WMO's latest Greenhouse Gas Bulletin says that concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increased at record-breaking speed in 2016 to the highest level in 800,000 years. The report says that "the abrupt changes in the atmosphere witnessed in the past 70 years are without precedent".
 
The WMO's Bulletin says that globally averaged concentrations of CO2 reached 403.3 parts per million in 2016, up from 400.00 ppm in 2015 because of a combination of human activities and a strong El Niño event. Concentrations of CO2 are now 145% of pre-industrial (before 1750) levels.
 
The report says that rapidly increasing atmospheric levels of CO2 and other greenhouse gases have the potential to initiate unprecedented changes in climate systems, leading to “severe ecological and economic disruptions”.
 
The data is based on observations from the WMO Global Atmosphere Watch Programme. These observations help to track the changing levels of greenhouse gases and serve as an early warning system for changes in these key atmospheric drivers of climate change.
 
The report points to population growth, intensified agricultural practices, increases in land use and deforestation, industrialization and associated energy use - including transport - from fossil fuel sources have all contributed to increases in concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere since the industrial era, beginning in 1750.
 
WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said: “Without rapid cuts in CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions, we will be heading for dangerous temperature increases by the end of this century, well above the target set by the Paris climate change agreement.” 
 
“CO2 remains in the atmosphere for hundreds of years and in the oceans for even longer. The laws of physics mean that we face a much hotter, more extreme climate in the future. There is currently no magic wand to remove this COfrom the atmosphere.”
 
The last time the Earth experienced a comparable concentration of CO2 was 3-5 million years ago, the temperature was 2-3°C warmer and sea level was 10-20 meters higher than now.


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