The WMO publishes an annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, the latest of which reveals a surge in atmospheric greenhouse gas levels between 2012 and 2013.
“The Greenhouse Gas Bulletin shows that, far from falling, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere actually increased last year at the fastest rate for nearly 30 years,” said Michel Jarraud, secretary general of the WMO.
In May, the Organization announced that CO2 levels had reached 400 parts per million in the atmosphere, an unprecedented concentration in recorded human history. The current concentration is believed to be 142 percent of what it was in 1750, prior to the Industrial Revolution.
“We know without any doubt that our climate is changing and our weather is becoming more extreme due to human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels,” said Jarraud in a statement.
“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,” he added. “We are running out of time.”
The bulletin does not measure the volume of emissions generated by industrial processes, but rather how much of this gas remains in the atmosphere after it has been absorbed by trees, living organisms and the ocean. About 50 percent of greenhouse emissions are removed in this way, though it is having a noticeable effect on the world’s oceans.
This latest GG Bulletin is the first to include data on ocean acidification, the process wherein carbon dioxide is absorbed into the ocean and transformed into carbonic acid. The report calculates that the ocean is now absorbing four kilograms of CO2 per person, resulting in a rate of acidification unseen on Earth in the last 300 million years.
Because greenhouse gases can remain in the atmosphere for such a long time, the impact of global warming can become exponential over time. This is why between 1990 and 2013, the warming impact of carbon and other greenhouse emissions increased by 34 percent. What worries scientists is that the recent surge in warming effects may not be due to increased emissions but by the planet’s decreased capacity to absorb them.
“In 2013 there are no obvious impacts on the biosphere so it is more worrying,” said Oksana Tarasova, chief of the atmospheric research division at the WMO. “We don’t understand if this is temporary or if it is a permanent state, and we are a bit worried about that.”
“It could be that the biosphere is at its limit,” he continued, “but we cannot tell that at the moment.”