Earth’s Carbon Dioxide Reaches Record High

It’s not just carbon dioxide: as the report states, concentrations of other climate-warming greenhouse gases – such as methane and nitrous oxide – also saw higher increases in 2018 compared to the rest of the decade.

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According to a new report released by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) today, November 25, globally-averaged carbon dioxide concentration reached 407.8 parts per million (ppm) in 2018, an increase from 405.5 ppm in 2017.

This maintains the trend – the increase was similar to 2016–2017, slightly above the rises across the past decade – which will spark even more severe climate change, from erratic temperatures to extreme weather.

The WMO has attributed the rise of carbon dioxide to human activities – 2018’s global average equates to a 147% increase over the pre-industrial level in 1750.

Carbon Dioxide in Earth's atmosphere reaches record high
Both emissions (the amount of gases that rise to the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels, for example) and concentrations (the amount left over following a complex series of interactions between the elements) were analysed in order to paint a clearer picture of how the planet is doing.

WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas told BBC News

There is no sign of a slowdown, let alone a decline, in greenhouse gases concentration in the atmosphere despite all the commitments under the Paris agreement on climate change. We need to translate the commitments into action and increase the level of ambition for the sake of the future welfare of mankind.

The Secretary-General added the last time the planet had similar carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere was between three and five million years ago, when the temperature was approximately 3°C (5.4°F) warmer and sea levels were up to 20 meters higher.

Carbon Dioxide in Earth's atmosphere reaches record high
Following the publication of this report, a further ‘Emissions Gap Report’ is set to be released by the UN tomorrow, November 26 – looking at the recent evidence and where Earth is heading. The complementary report will also compare the recent figures with those required to achieve the goals of the Paris agreement.

Commenting on the rise of emissions, Pep Canadell, climate scientist with Australia’s CSIRO and executive director of the Global Carbon Project, told CNET:

I can tell you they’re going to go up next year and the following one and then the next decade and the following decade. It’s not until you bring those emissions to zero, that you can begin to inspire stabilization in the atmosphere.

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