The World Meteorological Organization has a new report out today saying that the amount of greenhouse gasses currently in the atmosphere have reached a new record high.
The World Meteorological Organization’s annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin shows that between 1990 and 2012 there was a 32% increase in radiative forcing – the warming effect on our climate – because of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other heat-trapping long-lived gases such as methane and nitrous oxide.
Carbon dioxide, mainly from fossil fuel-related emissions, accounted for 80% of this increase. The atmospheric increase of CO2 from 2011 to 2012 was higher than its average growth rate over the past ten years, according to the Greenhouse Gas Bulletin.
Since the start of the industrial era in 1750, the global average concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased by 41%, methane by 160% and nitrous oxide by 20%.
What is happening in the atmosphere is one part of a much wider picture. Only about half of the CO2 emitted by human activities remains in the atmosphere, with the rest being absorbed in the biosphere and in the oceans.
This Bulletin from the WMO comes on the heels of a draft report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), leaked over the weekend, which says that global food production could decline by 2% each decade for the rest of the century.
The report also finds other sweeping impacts from climate change already occurring across the planet, and warns that these are likely to intensify as human emissions of greenhouse gases continue to rise. The scientists describe a natural world in turmoil as plants and animals colonize new areas to escape rising temperatures, and warn that many could become extinct.
The warning on the food supply is the sharpest in tone the panel has issued. Its previous report, in 2007, was more hopeful. While it did warn of risks and potential losses in output, particularly in the tropics, that report found that gains in production at higher latitudes would most likely offset the losses and ensure an adequate global supply.
The chances that these warnings will convince the deniers are slim, of course. But that does not mean that the unrelenting pace of climate change will not continue to affect people around the world. Climate change will be a world historical force, whether people believe in it or not.