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Greenhouse gases soar to another record and ‘no end in sight’

Global greenhouse gas levels set a record in 2022, keeping the planet’s temperatures on an upward trajectory that will exceed global climate targets, the U.N. World Meteorological Organization said in a report Wednesday.

“There is no end in sight” to the growth in greenhouse gas emissions, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) warned, reporting that global concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide hit new highs last year. . Emissions of these heat-trapping gases broke records as the planet continued on a trajectory that scientists say will likely cause significant and irreversible damage to ecosystems and communities.

“We are seeing new, extremely high levels of the three major gases,” which are driving rising global temperatures and extreme weather events, WMO senior scientific officer Oksana Tarasova told the Washington Post.

The WMO data analyzes measurements from 150 observing stations around the world. Record greenhouse gas levels in 2022 offer another urgent metric ahead of this month’s COP28 climate conference in Dubai. Last year was the fifth warmest on the planet, according to the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, and carbon dioxide levels and temperatures have continued to rise in 2023.

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Carbon dioxide accounts for about two-thirds of the warming effect on the climate, so curbing emissions is critical to preventing the worst effects of climate change, scientists say.

“Despite decades of warnings from the scientific community, thousands of pages of reports and dozens of climate conferences, we are still heading in the wrong direction,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said in a statement.

The world is inching closer to the warming threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and the WMO has warned that the planet may be close to tipping points that could have irreversible consequences, such as rainforest extinction. Amazon or the destabilization of the ice. leaves.

Rising concentrations are also pushing the world’s forests and oceans to a point where they could stop absorbing the level of emissions that humans depend on, Tarasova said. In Europe, for example, last summer’s drought caused forests to absorb less carbon dioxide, she said, and in parts of the Amazon, stressed forest has begun emitting it back into the atmosphere.

“All those things that have accumulated over centuries or millennia, if they start to disappear, you can’t just give them back,” Tarasova told The Post. “Melting glaciers, or melting ice in the Arctic, can’t bring back glaciers that have built up for thousands of years.”

Last year, atmospheric carbon dioxide soared to 150 percent above pre-industrial levels, the WMO said. Methane increased by 16 parts per billion (ppb) during 2021, comparable to last year’s increase, and nitrous oxide by 1.4 ppb, a jump Tarasova called dramatic. Carbon dioxide concentrations increased 2.2 parts per million (ppm) from 2021 to 2022. The average concentration in 2022 was around 418 ppm compared to pre-industrial levels of between 270 and 280 ppm.

The last time carbon dioxide reached a concentration comparable to that of 2022 was between 3 and 5 million years ago, according to the WMO.

The growth rate of carbon dioxide levels in 2022 was slightly lower than in 2021, but WMO scientists largely attributed this to short-term variations in the carbon cycle.

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The report comes a day after a US federal report warned that the effects of climate change in the United States are worsening, even as many governments and communities step up their response. Also on Tuesday, another report found that the world is not moving fast enough on the many transformations needed to limit the worst consequences of climate change.

In 2022, the planet suffered extreme weather disasters, including catastrophic flooding in Pakistan, unprecedented heat across Europe, and devastating drought in East Africa.

Scientists say the Earth is now warmer than at any time in the last 125,000 years. Last week, scientists said the period from November 2022 to October 2023 was the hottest ever recorded in modern times. And on Wednesday, NOAA said last month was the warmest October on record and the fifth consecutive record warm month. The month’s onslaught of extreme weather included Hurricane Otis, which destroyed parts of Acapulco; Cyclone Lola, which devastated parts of Vanuatu, a South Pacific nation; severe flooding in Ghana; and Mississippi River levels dropping to record lows for the second year in a row.

The 2022 data underlined that the planet could warm well beyond the 1.5 degree threshold on its current trajectory, WMO scientists said.

“At the moment, it’s going to be quite difficult to keep it within the 1.5 degree limit,” Taalas said at a news conference. “We’re headed toward 2.5 or 3 degrees.”



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