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Record concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere

Posted by Neno Duplan

Concentrations of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere surged to a record high in 2016, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

Last year’s increase was 50% higher than the average of the past ten years.

Researchers say a combination of human activities and the El Niño weather phenomenon drove CO2 to a level not seen in 800,000 years. Scientists say this risks making global temperature targets unattainable.

The WMO’s Greenhouse Gas Bulletin for this year is based on measurements taken in 51 countries. Research stations around the globe measure concentrations of gases, including carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide.  The figures published by the WMO are what’s left in the atmosphere after significant amounts are absorbed by the Earth’s oceans and the biosphere.

2016 Greenhouse gas concentrations surge to new record
World Meteorological Organization. “Greenhouse gas concentrations surge to new record”, 30 October 2017. https://public.wmo.int/en/media/press-release/greenhouse-gas-concentrations-surge-new-record

This was the largest annual increase in the 30 years since the international research network was established, according to Dr. Oksana Tarasova, chief of WMO’s global atmosphere watch program (BBC News).

Over the past 70 years, says the report, the rate of increase in CO2 in the atmosphere is nearly 100 times larger than it was at the end of the last ice age. Rapidly increasing atmospheric levels of CO2 and other gases have the potential, according to the study, to “initiate unprecedented changes in climate systems […] leading to severe ecological and economic disruptions.”

Experts in the field of atmospheric research agree that the WMO findings are a cause for concern.

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