UN: Greenhouse Gases Reach Record Levels
According to the United Nation’s World Meteorological Organization (WMO), in a report released today, the levels of all greenhouse gases continue to increase exponentially. In 2008, global concentration of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, which are the main long-lived greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, have reached the highest levels recorded since the pre-industrial era. Since 1990, the overall increase in radiative forcing caused by greenhouse gases is 26 percent, and the increase was 1.3 percent from 2007 to 2008.
Greenhouse gases trap radiation within the earth’s atmosphere causing it to warm. Human activities such as fossil fuel burning and industrialized agriculture are major emitters of greenhouse gases, which scientists recognize as drivers of global warming and climate change.
The 4 most prevalent long lived greenhouse gases that are directly influenced by human activities are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O) and halocarbons. The WMO coordinates the observations of these gases in the atmosphere in stations located in more than 50 countries.
The globally averaged mixing ratio of CO2 in 2008 was 385.2ppm (number of molecules of the gas per million molecules of dry air). It was an increase of 2.0ppm from 2007, continuing an exponential increase. CO2 contributes 63.5 percent to the increase in overall radiative forcing since 1750. According to WMO, CO2 atmospheric abundance was nearly constant at 280ppm before 1750. CO2 primarily causes of dramatic increase since the industrial revolution are combustion of fossil fuels (oil and charcoal), deforestation and land use change. Organizations such as Greenpeace and 350.org recommend that the CO2 emissions should be in a range of 350ppm or below to avoid the catastrophic consequences of global warming and climate change.
The globally averaged mixing ratio of methane (CH4) in 2008 was 1797ppb. In comparison, before the industrial revolution, atmospheric CH4 was about 700ppb. CH4 contributes 18.2 percent to the increase in overall global radiative forcing since the beginning of the industrial revolution. 60 percent of CH4 emissions come from anthropogenic sources such as ruminants flatulence, rice agriculture, landfills and biomass burning. By reducing our consumption of meat we would greatly improve our cardiovascular health, but also decrease the level of CH4 emissions by reducing the demand for beef.
These latest figures published today by the World Meteorological Organization confirm the continued trend of the rising atmospheric burden represented by greenhouse gases. It is not a coincidence that the WMO made the data available a few days from the UN’s sponsored climate conference in Copenhagen. Unfortunately, the two biggest emitters, China & the US, are dragging their feet into committing to a 20 to 45 percent CO2 emission reduction by 2020. In America, the health care bill has monopolized everyone’s attention making Americans forget that global warming and climate change will be very hazardous to their health.