The increases in the key gases measured in 2018 were all above the average for the last decade, showing any perceived action on the climate emergency to date is having no effect in the atmosphere.

By Ian Horswill


Posted on November 26, 2019

Despite what you read and hear about the advances in renewable energy, solar and wind farms, the United Nation’s World Meteorological Organisation states the levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have reached a new high.

“This continuing long-term trend means that future generations will be confronted with increasingly severe impacts of climate change, including rising temperatures, more extreme weather, water stress, sea level rise and disruption to marine and land ecosystems,” the World Meteorological Organisation said in a statement.

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The increases in the key gases measured in 2018 were all above the average for the last decade, showing any perceived action on the climate emergency to date is having no effect in the atmosphere. The WMO said the gap between targets and reality were both “glaring and growing”.

Climate change

The WMO Greenhouse Gas Bulletin showed that globally averaged concentrations of carbon dioxide reached 407.8 parts per million in 2018, up from 405.5 parts per million in 2017.

“The increase in carbon dioxide from 2017 to 2018 was very close to that observed from 2016 to 2017 and just above the average over the last decade. Global levels of carbon dioxide crossed the symbolic and significant 400 parts per million benchmark in 2015,” said the World Meteorological Organisation.

Carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for centuries and in the oceans for even longer.

Concentrations of methane and nitrous oxide also surged by higher amounts than during the past decade, according to observations from the Global Atmosphere Watch network which includes stations in the remote Arctic, mountain areas and tropical islands.

“Since 1990, there has been a 43% increase in total radiative forcing – the warming effect on the climate – by long-lived greenhouse gases. CO2 accounts for about 80% of this,” according to figures from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration quoted in the WMO Bulletin.

“There is no sign of a slowdown, let alone a decline, in greenhouse gases concentration in the atmosphere despite all the commitments under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas. “We need to translate the commitments into action and increase the level of ambition for the sake of the future welfare of the mankind,” he said.

“It is worth recalling that the last time the Earth experienced a comparable concentration of CO2 was 3-5 million years ago. Back then, the temperature was 2-3°C warmer, sea level was 10-20 meters higher than now,” said Taalas.

The rise in concentration of greenhouses gases follows inevitably from the continued surge in global emissions, which was described as “brutal news” for 2018. The world’s scientists calculate that emissions must fall by half by 2030 to give a good chance of limiting global heating to 1.5C, beyond which hundreds of millions of people will suffer more heatwaves, droughts, floods and poverty.

“The findings of WMO’s Greenhouse Gas Bulletin and UNEP’s Emissions Gap Report point us in a clear direction – in this critical period, the world must deliver concrete, stepped-up action on emissions,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). “We face a stark choice: set in motion the radical transformations we need now, or face the consequences of a planet radically altered by climate change.”