Thursday 8 December 2016

Greenhouse gases rising at alarming speed: experts

Published 10/11/2015 | 02:30

Michel Jarraud
Michel Jarraud

THE level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has reached record highs and the planet is moving into "uncharted territory at a frightening speed", the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) has warned.

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Concentrations of gases from agriculture, transport and energy continue their "relentless rise", it says.

If left unchecked, it will result in the planet becoming "more dangerous" for future generations as higher average temperatures coupled with more extreme weather events take hold.

A new report from the UK Met Office also says that for the first time this year, average global temperatures will increase by 1C, as the Earth continues to warm up due to human influence.

The report, based on data from January to September, shows the 2015 global mean temperature at 1.02C above pre-industrial levels. The warnings come in advance of international talks in Paris next month, aimed at striking a global deal to limit climate change to no more than 2C.

The latest pledges by UN members to reduce emissions will not keep warming below this limit, meaning more ambitious proposals are needed if dangerous climate change is to be averted.

The WMO's Greenhouse Gas Bulletin says that between 1990 and 2014 there was a 36pc increase in radiative forcing - the warming effect on our climate - because of greenhouse gases including carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) which are emitted from industrial, agricultural and domestic activities.

It says that the level of gases reached "yet another new record high" last year, which would make the planet "more dangerous and inhospitable" for future generations.

"Every year, we report a new record in greenhouse gas concentrations," said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud (below).

"Every year, we say that time is running out. We have to act now to slash greenhouse gas emissions if we are to have a chance to keep the increase in temperatures to manageable levels."

The WMO report also highlights the interaction between rising levels of CO2 and water vapour.

It says that warmer air holds more moisture, and so increased surface temperatures caused by CO2 would lead to a rise in global water vapour levels, further adding to the enhanced greenhouse effect.

Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide reached 397.7 million parts per million (ppm) in 2014, it says. In spring last year, concentrations crossed the 400ppm level in the Northern hemisphere, and these levels would soon become a "permanent reality", Mr Jarraud added.

"We can't see CO2. It is an invisible threat, but a very real one. It means hotter global temperatures, more extreme weather events like heatwaves and floods, melting ice, rising sea levels and increased acidity of the oceans. This is happening now and we are moving into uncharted territory at a frightening speed."

Irish Independent

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