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Warning bell: Greenhouse gas levels hit new high

GENEVA: The amount of greenhouse gases in Earth's atmosphere hit a new record high in 2012, continuing an ever-faster rise that is driving climate change, the UN weather agency said on Wednesday. "The concentrations are reaching once again record levels," Michel Jarraud, who heads the World Meteorological Organization(WMO), told reporters in Geneva. 
His organization released its annual report on greenhouse gases on Wednesday, showing that concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide all broke fresh records in 2012. 
Global concentrations of CO2, the main culprit in global warming, for instance reached 393.1 parts per million last year, or 141% of pre-industrial levels — defined as before 1750. 
The report was released a day after the UN Environment Programme warned the chances of limiting the global temperature rise to 2°C over pre-industrial levels were swiftly diminishing, and ahead of UN climate talks that open in Warsaw next week. 

The UN's two-degree target is being chased through efforts to curb Earth-warming greenhouse gas emissions, mainly caused by fossil-fuel burning to power industry, transport and farming. "The observations from WMO's extensive Global Atmosphere Watch network highlight yet again how heattrapping gases from human activities have upset the natural balance of our atmosphere and are a major contribution to climate change," Jarraud said. 
Dave Reay, a carbon management expert at the University of Edinburgh, said that stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations was the key to successful climate negotiations, emissions regulations , and carbon markets rests. 
"Despite the financial crash, and reduced emissions from some nations, the global picture is one of carbon dioxide concentrations in our atmosphere reaching a record-breaking high year after year," Reay added. 
Experts warn that unless more is done to rein in emissions , the world faces potentially devastating effects such as more frequent megastorms, species extinctions, water shortages, crop die-offs , loss of land to the rising seas as glaciers and polar ice melt, and spreading disease. 
"CO2 has a ratchet effect," said Peter Wadhams, professor of ocean physics at the University of Cambridge. 
"Its influence on the climate system lasts for about 100 years, so we will be paying for our profligate use of fossil fuels for a long time to come — so long, in fact, that we may well have now made it impossible for the planet to avoid catastrophic global warming effects." The atmospheric increase of CO2 from 2011 to 2012 was higher than the average growth rate over the past 10 years, WMO said. AFP 

Heat is on 
32% increase in warming effect on climate between 1990 and 2012, due to heat-trapping gases such as CO, methane & nitrous oxide 
Main greenhouse gases 
CO| 
Accounts for 80% of increase; emitted through fossil fuel burning, deforestation. Remains in air for hundreds of years 
Level in 2012 | 
393.1ppm, 141% of pre-industrial level of 278ppm. Global annual mean CO2 level set to cross 400ppm in 2015-16 . The last time COlevels were this high was 3-5 million years ago 
Nitrous oxide | 
Impact on climate 298 times greater than CO2 40% emissions through human activities 
Level in 2012 | 
325.1 parts/billion, 120% of pre-industrial level 
Methane | 
40% emissions by natural sources, 60% through human activities like cattle breeding, agriculture and biomass burning 
Level in 2012 | 
1,819 parts/billion, 260% of pre-industrial level 

The Times of India (07-11-2013)