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Greenhouse gas concentration reached new record in 2011: WMO

The World Meteorological Organization today reported that greenhouse gases -- carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide -- reached record levels in 2011, with CO2 rising at 2 parts million yearly for the past ten years to 390.9 ppm last year.

In a news release, the WMO said:

Between 1990 and 2011 there was a 30% increase in radiative forcing -- the warming effect on our climate -- because of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other heat-trapping long-lived gases.

Since the start of the industrial era in 1750, about 375 billion tonnes of carbon have been released into the atmosphere as CO2, primarily from fossil fuel combustion, according to WMO’s 2011 Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, which had a special focus on the carbon cycle. About half of this carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere, with the rest being absorbed by the oceans and terrestrial biosphere.

"These billions of tonnes of additional carbon dioxide in our atmosphere will remain there for centuries, causing our planet to warm further and impacting on all aspects of life on earth," said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud. "Future emissions will only compound the situation."

... The Greenhouse Gas Bulletin reports on atmospheric concentrations – and not emissions - of greenhouse gases. Emissions represent what goes into the atmosphere. Concentrations represent what remains in the atmosphere after the complex system of interactions between the atmosphere, biosphere and the oceans.

The announcement comes on the heels of a World Bank report predicting a 4ºC increase in world temperatures by the end of the century.

Meanwhile, Environment Minister Peter Kent pointed to Hurricane Sandy as an example of extreme weather resulting from global harming.

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

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