Greenhouse gas concentrations surged to record

Global greenhouse gas levels set a record in 2022, keeping the planet’s temperatures on a rising path set to blow past the world’s climate goals, the U.N. World Meteorological Organization said in a report Wednesday.

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

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

The WMO’s data analyzes measurements from 150 observation stations across the globe. The record greenhouse gases levels in 2022 offer another urgent metric ahead of the COP28 climate conference this month in Dubai. Last year was the planet’s fifth-hottest, according to the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, and carbon dioxide levels and temperatures have continued to climb in 2023.

You’ve just lived through Earth’s hottest 12 months on record

Carbon dioxide accounts for about two-thirds of the warming effect on the climate, making curbing emissions 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 moving ever closer to the warming threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, and the WMO warned that the planet may be close to tipping points that could have irreversible consequences, such as the dieback of the Amazon rainforest or the destabilization of ice sheets.

The rising concentrations are also pushing the world’s forests and oceans closer to a point at which they may stop absorbing the level of emissions that humans rely on them to do, Tarasova said. In Europe, for example, last summer’s drought led forests to take up less carbon dioxide, she said, and in parts of the Amazon, the stressed forest has begun emitting it back into the atmosphere.

“All those things which have been accumulated for centuries or millennia, if they start going away, you cannot just put them back,” Tarasova told The Post. “The melting of the glaciers, or the melting of the ice in the Arctic — you can’t put glaciers back which were accumulated for thousands of years.”

Last year, atmospheric carbon dioxide soared to 150 percent above preindustrial levels, the WMO said. Methane increased by 16 parts per billion (ppb) over 2021, comparable to last year’s rise, and nitrous oxide by 1.4 ppb, a jump that Tarasova called dramatic. Carbon dioxide concentrations rose by 2.2 parts per million (ppm) from 2021 to 2022. The 2022 average…

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