GREENHOUSE gases in the atmosphere have reached record levels as global emissions continue to rise, a report published yesterday warned.
• Greenhouse emissions have reached record levels, a new report finds
• Concentration of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide threatens to trigger catastrophic temperature rise
The annual World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) survey revealed the highest ever concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2), reaching 390.9 parts per million (ppm) last year.
The increase was mirrored by similar rises in methane and nitrous oxide, which have also gone up over the past decade.
CO2 volumes are now 140 per cent above the levels found before the Industrial Revolution of 1750, (280ppm) when massive changes in human activity began releasing the gases into the air.
The WMO said the combined effect of the three gases – emitted in vast amounts as a result of fossil fuel use, deforestation and intensive agriculture – had increased global warming by 30 per cent between 1990 and 2011.
Michel Jarraud, secretary-general of the WMO, said the billions of tonnes of extra CO2 in the atmosphere would make it “challenging if not impossible” to keep temperature rises below the 2C rise which experts fear could prove catastrophic.
He said: “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. Future emissions will only compound the situation.
“We have already seen that the oceans are becoming more acidic as a result of the carbon dioxide uptake, with potential repercussions for the underwater food chain and coral reefs.”
Publication of the WMO’s annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin came just days before politicians from around the world meet in Doha for the United Nations Climate Change summit next week.
The Scottish Government, which is sending environment and climate change minister Paul Wheelhouse to the conference, has introduced legislation setting its own greenhouse gas emissions targets, but was derided by environmentalists after it failed to meet the first round earlier this year.
Dr Richard Dixon, director of green group WWF Scotland, said: “The Scottish Government … has a great example to share with the world [in the Climate Change Act], but we need to be brave enough to implement all the policies needed to meet those targets. The two main areas where we really need to do more now are housing and transport.”
The Scottish Government said it was committed to tackling climate change, energy efficiency and fuel poverty “head on” and was more than half way to its target of reducing emissions by 42 per cent by 2020.
A spokeswoman said: “[Mr Wheelhouse] will promote Scotland’s high ambition and action in developing a low-carbon economy, our support for climate justice for the world’s poorest communities, and highlight the evidence from Scotland on the jobs and investment that our commitment to world-leading emissions reduction targets has attracted.”