CO2 levels in atmosphere surged to record levels in 2013, says WMO

Rate of ocean acidification also unprecedented, says UN’s meteorological agency

By Arjuna Srinidhi
Published: Tuesday 09 September 2014

Photo: Meeta Ahlawat

Levels of carbon dioxide during 2013 grew at the fastest rate since reliable global records began.  According to the WMO’s annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, average CO2 in atmosphere reached 396 parts per million (ppm) in 2013, an increase of almost 2.9 ppm over the previous year.  This means that CO2 levels in the atmosphere is about 142 per cent of the levels in 1750, before the start of 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 WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud.

More reasons to worry

The bulletin this year also included data on the acidification of the seas caused by carbon dioxide.  Oceans serve as major ‘sink’ for CO2, taking up about 4kg of the gas per person per day.  WMO believes the current rate of acidification is unprecedented over the last 300 million years.

Other significant GHGs such as methane and nitrous oxide too continued to grow at a rate similar to the past decade. 

Another cause for worry arising from the report was the observation that the increase in CO2 levels was not just due to increased emissions, but also due to a reduced uptake by Earth’s biosphere.  Scientists are apparently puzzled by this development as the last time it happened in 1998 was when there was extensive burning of biomass worldwide, coupled with El Nino conditions.  "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.

Call for global action

The data of CO2 levels in the atmosphere and from oceans underlines the urgent need for global action.  "We have the knowledge and we have the tools for action to try to keep temperature increases within 2°C to give our planet a chance and to give our children and grandchildren a future.  Pleading ignorance can no longer be an excuse for not acting,” says Jarraud.

The state of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere based on global observations through 2013

The state of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere based on global observations through 2012

ET BRICS 300 carbon ranking report 2013

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