30-year high for greenhouse gas emissions

The amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached a record high in 2013, propelled by a surge in levels of carbon dioxide which experts think the planet may struggle to deal with.

That’s according to the World Meteorological Organisations’ (WMO) annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin which called for “concentrated international action against accelerating and potentially devastating climate change.”

The report also said that C02 levels increased at the quickest rate since 1984, suggesting the while emissions are rising; the earth’s ability to absorb the gas may also be declining.

Professor Dave Reay, chair in carbon management at the University of Edinburgh, told the Guardian newspaper: “Of particular concern is the indication that carbon storage in the world’s forests and oceans may be faltering.

“So far these ‘carbon sinks’ have been locking away almost half of all the carbon dioxide we emit. If they begin to fail in the face of further warming then our chances of avoiding dangerous climate change become very slim indeed.”

WMO obtain their data by recording how much of the warming gases remain in the atmosphere rather than directly tracking emissions

“Carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for many hundreds of years and in the ocean for even longer,” said WMO general-secretary Michael Jarraud. “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,”

Ocean acidification

For the first time the bulletin contained a section dedicated to ocean acidification, which is reportedly occurring at a rate unprecedented for at least 300 million years.

Wendy Watson-Wright, executive secretary of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO said: “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.”

The report also found that between 1990 and 2013 there was a 34% increase in radiative forcing (the warming effect on the climate); figures which counter arguments that global temperatures are unaffected by rising CO2.

“The Greenhouse Gas Bulletin provides a scientific base for decision-making,” said Mr Jarraud “

“We have the knowledge and we have the tools for action to try and keep temperature increases within 2°C to give our planet a chance and to give our children and grandchildren a future. Pleading ignorance can no longer be an excuse for not acting.”

Paris 2015

International political leaders will meet in New York on September 23 for a special environment summit called by UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon.

The meeting is intended to kick-start discussions ahead of an international agreement on climate change at the Paris 2015 conference.

UK climate secretary Ed Davey has stressed his views that any agreements made at that conference should be legally binding.

Brad Allen

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