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Greenhouse gas emissions broke all records again last year

 

 
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO), a specialized agency of the United Nations, published its latest bulletin on the level of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere on 22 November. In 2017, emissions of CO2, methane and nitrous oxide have reached record levels. Never in 66 million years has humanity released so many gases involved in global warming. The report will serve as a basis for the work of the next COP 24, but the scientists are keen to stress the urgency of action. The urgency to act is meeting resistance from all sides: from fossil industry lobbies, from citizens who fear for their purchasing power and are afraid to face the changes imposed by events, and from politicians obsessed with the short term.
 
 
Ahe main greenhouse gas emissions causing climate change have all reached record levels, according to UN meteorological experts.
Carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide are now well above pre-industrial levels, with no sign of a reversal of the upward trend, according to a report of the World Meteorological Organization.
 
The most recent measurements indicate that in 2017, carbon dioxide (CO2) reached 405.5 ppm (number of molecules of the greenhouse gas considered per million air molecules), compared to 403.3 ppm in 2016 and 400.1 ppm in 2015. These rates of carbon emissions are "unprecedented" for 66 million years. CO2 levels are 2.5 times higher than before the industrial revolution.
 
Levels of methane, a potent greenhouse gas responsible for about 17 % of global warming, are now 3.5 times higher than in pre-industrial times due to emissions from livestock, rice paddies and leaking oil and gas wells.
Nitrous oxide (N2O), which also warms the planet and destroys the Earth's protective ozone layer, is now more than double pre-industrial levels. About 40 % of N2O comes from human activities, including soil degradation, fertilizer use and industry.
The WMO also highlighted the discovery of illicit production of CFC-11, a banned chemical that warms the planet and destroys ozone. Investigations indicate that at least some of the production is taking place in China.
 

The window of opportunity for action is almost closed.

The last time the Earth experienced a comparable concentration of CO2 was 3 to 5 million years ago, when the temperature was 2 to 3°C higher and the sea level was 10 to 20 metres higher than it is today. "said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.
The science is clear. Without a rapid reduction in emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases, climate change will have increasingly destructive and irreversible effects on life on Earth. The window of opportunity for action is almost closed.. »
 
In its report, the WMO is singularly pessimistic. The experts see no sign of a possible reversal of the trend. Since 1990, greenhouse gas emissions have increased by 41 %. « Every fraction of the degree of global warming is important, as is every part per million of greenhouse gases. "said WMO Deputy Secretary-General Elena Manaenkova. « CO2 remains in the atmosphere for hundreds of years and in the oceans even longer. There is currently no magic wand to remove all excess CO2 from the atmosphere.. »
 
Climatologists have been sounding the alarm for years. Corinne Le Quéré, from the University of East Anglia, Norwitch, tells the British daily paper The Guardian : " I am very concerned about the fact that the three gases most responsible for climate change continue to skyrocket. It seems that the urgency and scale of the measures needed to combat climate change have not been taken into account. "
 

Denial and despair

Sinking into despair would be counterproductive. There is no denying that efforts to reduce emissions are intensifying and the United Nations climate change body has published Wednesday a report on the commitments made in 2018. It found that 9,000 cities in 128 countries were taking action, as well as 240 states and regions in 40 countries and more than 6,000 companies in 120 countries.
Scientists, and now much of world public opinion, know what causes global warming.
 
Only patent climate sceptics can deny that the increase in greenhouse gas emissions through industrialization, fossil fuel energy use, agricultural intensification, increased land use and deforestation are endangering human life on Earth.
 
The latest study published in Nature Climate Change and of which UP' Magazine echoed yesterday is most disturbing. In the near future, depending on where we live, we are not likely to have more floods or more droughts or more heat waves. No. Climate is a global physical system in which all risks accumulate. We may have to face all the risks at the same time or in a cascade.   
 
Inaction or fear of facing the necessary transformations in our lifestyles is no longer an option. « The vast majority of mankind is in a kind of more or less assumed denial " wrote yesterday's editorialist for Le Monde. He continued his argument by referring to the Australian philosopher Clive Hamiltonwhich states that " we are all climatosceptical to varying degrees, in that we accept neither "the truth about what we have done to the Earth" nor the radical change in life imposed by global warming, and even less the questioning of the principle of modernity and of linear progress that tends towards ever more. "
 
What will it take to raise awareness of the climate emergency? How many studies, how many devastating catastrophes will it take for us to understand that humanity is at the origin of what can destroy it and that inaction is the worst solution.
 
The WMO report will serve as the scientific basis for decision-making at the UN climate change negotiations taking place next week from 2-14 December in Katowice, Poland (COP 24). This may be our last opportunity to look at our future and avoid crossing the threshold beyond which there is no turning back.
 
 

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