UN: Greenhouse gas levels in atmosphere hit new high | News | DW | 25.11.2019
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UN: Greenhouse gas levels in atmosphere hit new high

The UN's meteorological agency has said CO2 levels are accelerating at the highest rate on record and showing "no sign of a slowdown." The report comes one week ahead of a UN climate summit in Madrid.

Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the main drivers of climate change, reached record levels in 2018, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said Monday.

Since 1990, the warming effect of greenhouse gases has increased by 43%, according to the UN agency's annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin.

"There is no sign of a slowdown, let alone a decline in greenhouse gases' concentration in the atmosphere — despite all the commitments under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change," said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas, referencing the 2015 climate deal involving 187 countries. 

"What is good news is the visibility of these issues is higher than ever," Taalas added. "So, personally, I'm more hopeful than I used to be 10 years ago, but of course we have to speed up the process."

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The report comes a week before a UN climate summit in Madrid and is expected to guide discussions there. 

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Record CO2 rise

The report measures the atmospheric concentration of the gases responsible for climate change rather than emissions, the main factor that determines greenhouse gas levels.

The concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) rose from 405.5 parts per million in 2017 to 407.8 parts per million in 2018. The 2.3 parts per million increase from 2017 exceeded the average annual increase of 2.06 parts per million in 2005-2015.

"It is worth recalling that the last time Earth experienced a comparable concentration of CO2 was 3 to 5 million years ago," Taalas said.

CO2 is a product of burning fossil fuels and accounts for most of the global warming effect.

Additionally, the WMO report says heavy use of fertilizers led to the highest annual increase of nitrous oxide (N2O) concentrations ever recorded. N2O levels are 123% above preindustrial levels, while methane now stands at 259%.

"This continuing long-term trend means that future generations will be confronted with increasingly severe impacts of climate change, including rising temperatures, more extreme weather, water stress, sea level rise and disruption of marine and land ecosystems," the report said in its summary.

dv/cmk (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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