The World Meteorological Organization (WMO), a specialized agency of the United Nations, reports that carbon dioxide levels surged at a “record-breaking speed” in 2016. Their report indicates carbon dioxide concentrations rose to 403.3 parts per million (ppm) in 2016, up from 400 ppm in 2015, reaching levels of CO2 saturation in the earth’s atmosphere not seen in 3 to 4 million years. This growth pushes our climate’s atmosphere further outside the range of 180-280 ppm estimated for recent cycles of ice ages and warmer periods.
Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General of the WMO, issued the warning at the organization’s annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, held in Geneva on October 30. The bulletin states that today’s CO2 concentration of over 400 ppm exceeds the natural variability seen over hundreds of years.
“We have never seen such big growth in one year as we have been seeing last year in carbon dioxide concentration,” said Mr. Taalas.
Secretary-General Taalas also told journalists that it is past time for governments to fulfill the pledges they made at the 2015 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Paris. It was there and then that representatives from 195 countries, including the United States at the time, signed the Paris Climate Agreement, promising to take steps to reduce global warming.
But in the two years since that promise was made, the world has continued to step in the wrong direction.
Last year’s CO2 concentration growth rate was 50 percent faster than the past decade’s average, driving levels 45 percent above calculated pre-industrial levels. The potential of this carbon dioxide increase could lead to a 20-meter rise in sea levels, and add an average of three degrees to temperatures around the world.
The WMO bulletin states that human-produced CO2 emissions from sources such as coal, oil and deforestation rose to a new record in 2016. Furthermore, scientists have observed a direct correlation between these rising ppm leading to both a rise in temperatures and a rise in sea levels, due to melting ice. But the situation is far worse than a new record high, as these increases are accelerating at an alarming rate.
“The rate of increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) over the past 70 years is nearly 100 times larger than that at the end of the last ice age. As far as direct and proxy observations can tell, such abrupt changes in the atmospheric levels of CO2 have never before been seen,” the bulletin reports. This escalation in CO2, as well as other greenhouse gases methane and nitrous oxide, to a lesser extent, has caused a 40 percent in the global warming effect since 1990.
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