Greenhouse Gas Concentrations Hit High, Likely to Become 'Permanent Reality'

By Jamie Condliffe on at

A new bulletin from the World Meteorological Organization reports that the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have reached another new record high in 2014 that could become a ‘permanent reality.’

The bulletin explains that the atmospheric concentrations of CO2 has reached 397.7 parts per million (ppm) in 2014—close to the (largely symbolic) 400ppm milestone that climate scientists often talk about. In the Northern hemisphere, levels rose above the 400ppm level during Spring 2014.

In the press release accompanying the report, WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud sums things up:

“Every year we report a new record in greenhouse gas concentrations. 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 laws of physics are non-negotiable.”

He goes on to point out that CO2 levels above 400 parts per million look set to become “a permanent reality.” It’s worth noting that the WMO only publishes figures relating to atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases—the work doesn’t consider emissions.

The report also warns of the interactions–and resulting amplification of warming effects—caused by interactions between rising level of atmospheric CO2 and water vapour in the air. Warmer air caused by higher CO2 levels, it notes, can hold more water vapour. In turn, higher water vapour levels in the air also cause greater warming. Indeed, the bulletin also points out that radiative forcing – the technical term used to describe the warming that affects Earth – rose by 36 percent between 1990 and 2014.

The report comes just three weeks ahead of the Paris climate talks, where world leaders will meet in an attempt to navigate a path to effectively cutting emissions. [WMO via Guardian]

Image by Rob under Creative Commons license