Quantcast
Climate

Carbon Levels Rising at 'Frightening Speed' as Greenhouse Gases and Global Temperature Hit Record High

Atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations hit yet another new record in 2014, "continuing a relentless rise which is fueling climate change and will make the planet more dangerous and inhospitable for future generations," said the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in a report released today.

Global greenhouse gas concentrations have hit a new record every year since reliable records began in 1984. 
Photo credit: Shutterstock

The WMO Greenhouse Gas Bulletin found a 36 percent increase in greenhouse gas emissions in the last 25 years and a 43 percent increase from pre-industrial levels. The report also highlighted the "enhanced greenhouse effect" that more water vapor in the atmosphere is having. As the Earth's surface temperature warms because of record CO2 concentrations, it's creating a "vicious cycle" where "higher temperatures lead to more atmospheric water vapor," explains the Guardian, "which in turn traps even more heat."

Levels of two other major greenhouse gases, methane and nitrous oxide, rose "at the fastest rate for a decade," reports Reuters. In 2014, methane levels reached 1,833 parts per billion (ppb) and nitrous oxide levels reached 327.1 ppb.

“We will soon be living with globally averaged CO2 levels above 400 parts per million as a permanent reality,” said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud.

In the Northern hemisphere, CO2 concentrations reached 400 parts per million (ppm) in the spring of 2014 (when CO2 is most abundant), and the global average reached 397.7 ppm. Then, this past spring the global average "crossed the 400 ppm barrier," reports the WMO. March marked the first time ever that global carbon levels surpassed 400 ppm for an entire month. To avoid catastrophic climate change, scientists have said global concentrations need to be below 350 ppm.

Greenhouse gas concentrations have hit a new record every year since reliable records began in 1984, according to Reuters. “Every year we report a new record in greenhouse gas concentrations,” Jarraud said. “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.”

“Carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for hundreds of years and in the ocean for even longer," he added. "Past, present and future emissions will have a cumulative impact on both global warming and ocean acidification. The laws of physics are non-negotiable."

These findings mean "hotter global temperatures, more extreme weather events like heat waves and floods, melting ice, rising sea levels and increased acidity of the oceans," said Jarraud. "This is happening now and we are moving into uncharted territory at a frightening speed."

"Two degrees will be bad enough but it will be better than three degrees," said Jarraud. "Of course it would have been better to have one degree ... But one degree is not possible any longer. It's just not feasible. Too late."

The UK's Met Office reported today that for the first time global mean temperature at the Earth's surface is set to reach one degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

"This year marks an important first but that doesn't necessarily mean every year from now on will be a degree or more above pre-industrial levels, as natural variability will still play a role in determining the temperature in any given year," said Peter Stott, head of Climate Monitoring and Attribution at the Met Office. "As the world continues to warm in the coming decades, however, we will see more and more years passing the one degree marker—eventually it will become the norm."

The Met Office reports two important findings: two thirds of the two degrees Celsius budget for CO2 emissions have already been used and we've already seen one-third of the sea level rise that could be seen by 2100 in a two degrees Celsius world.

The Met Office says:

We know cumulative emissions of carbon dioxide will be key to determining the amount of eventual global warming we'll see. It is estimated that up to 2,900 gigatonnes of CO2 (GtCO2) can be emitted to have a likely (more than 66 percent) chance of limiting warming to below two degrees Celsius.

As of 2014, about 2,000 GtCO2 had already been emitted, meaning society has used about two thirds of the two degrees Celsius budget. This gives an indication that we are already committed to some level of further warming.

...

Currently, we have seen about 20 centimeters of global mean sea level rise since pre-industrial times and this is about one third of the level that could be seen by 2100 in a two degrees Celsius world.

Sea levels would continue to rise further into the next century, however, and potentially beyond.

The agency says that it's still possible to limit warming to two degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. "However, the later that global CO2 emissions peak—the faster subsequent emissions cuts would need to be in order to keep global temperature rise below the limit," says the Met Office.

And while these numbers seem esoteric, there is concrete evidence that this rapid rise in greenhouse gas concentrations, which has in turn driven a rapid rise in surface temperatures, is taking its toll on the planet's inhabitants. The World Bank warned yesterday that "rapid, climate-informed development" are needed to keep climate change from "pushing more than 100 million people into poverty by 2030."

These findings come just as climate experts predict this year will surpass 2014 as the hottest year on record and just three weeks before global leaders are set to meet at COP21, the Paris climate talks. More than 150 countries have created plans to limit emissions, but "the plans revealed so far will not curb emissions enough to meet a target agreed in 2010 to limit global warming to within 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) of pre-industrial levels," says Reuters.

Find out how climate change could push more than 100 million people into poverty in just 15 years:

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Why Buying a Vacation Home in Southern Florida Is Not a Good Idea

Colbert: How Your Sex Life and the Keystone XL Are Connected

4 More Bizarre Ben Carson Stories Emerge

Indoor Veggie Garden Lets You Grow Your Own Food Right in Your Kitchen

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Renewable Energy
Denver will get 100 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2030. Robert Kash / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Denver to Go 100 Percent Renewable by 2030

Denver became the 73rd city in the U.S. to commit to 100 percent renewable energy when Mayor Michael Hancock announced the goal in his State of the City speech Monday, The Denver Post reported.

The commitment is part of the city's larger 80×50 Climate Action Plan unveiled by Hancock Tuesday, which seeks to reduce Denver's greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent from 2005 levels by the year 2050.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
Emilie Chen / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

Against All Odds, Mountain Gorilla Numbers Are on the Rise

By Jason Bittel

The news coming out of East Africa's Virunga Mountains these days would have made the late (and legendary) conservationist Dian Fossey very happy. According to the most recent census, the mountain gorillas introduced to the world in Gorillas in the Mist, Fossey's book and the film about her work, have grown their ranks from 480 animals in 2010 to 604 as of June 2016. Add another couple hundred apes living in scattered habitats to the south, and their population as a whole totals more than 1,000. Believe it or not, this makes the mountain gorilla subspecies the only great apes known to be increasing in number.

Keep reading... Show less
Politics
The Power Shift 2011 rally targeted primarily the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for using its money and influence to stop climate and clean energy legislation. Linh Do, CC BY 2.0

Fossil Fuel Industry Outspent Environmentalists and Renewables by 10:1 on Climate Lobbying, New Study Finds

By Itai Vardi

Industry sectors based on fossil fuels significantly outspent environmental groups and renewable energy companies on climate change lobbying, new research has found.

In a study published Wednesday in the journal Climatic Change, Drexel University sociologist Robert Brulle shows that between 2000 and 2016, lobbyists spent more than $2 billion trying to influence climate legislation in the U.S. Congress.

Keep reading... Show less
Health
Pexels

Is Your Popcorn Laced With Hormone-Disrupting Chemicals?

By Kathryn Alcantar and Jose Bravo / Independent Media Institute

No one should be exposed to toxic chemicals in their food, particularly children. But that's exactly what the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) found in tests of microwave popcorn bags sold in Dollar Stores. These stores are frequented by communities of color and millions of poor Americans.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate
The Washington Post / Contributor / Getty Images

Climate Change May Stimulate the Chesapeake’s Blue Crab Population

By Amy Mcdermott

Jason McElwain isn't afraid of a pinch. He reached calmly into a basket of live crabs one Friday this June, and kept his cool even when a claw clamped down hard on his finger. "You get used to it after a while," he said, then yanked the crab off and tossed it into a plastic bin.

Keep reading... Show less
Food
Pexels

A Brief History of the Feral Blackberry

By Sara Bir

Blackberries are perhaps the best known of all foraged wild fruits. Whether they grow modestly on the perimeters of a ramshackle farm or thrive ruthlessly along the banks of a forgotten creek, there are hundreds of hidden wild blackberry havens waiting for opportunistic berry fanatics.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate
Joshua Tree National Park now has more unsafe ozone days than New York City. atramos / CC BY 2.0

Air Pollution in National Parks as Bad as 20 Largest U.S. Cities

A new study shows the importance of clean air regulations to prevent air pollution from reaching national parks.

A study published in Science Advances Wednesday found that, between 1990 and 2014, the ozone concentrations in 33 of the largest and most visited national parks were statistically indistinguishable from the ozone concentrations in the 20 largest U.S. cities.

Keep reading... Show less
Energy
Halliburton getting ready to frack in the Bakken formation, which underlies North Dakota, Montana, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Joshua Doubek / CC BY-SA 3.0

Zinke’s Real Estate Deal With Halliburton Chair to Be Investigated

Ousted U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott Pruitt isn't the only polluter-friendly Trump appointee with sketchy ethics.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!