Near-record jump in carbon concentrations in global atmosphere last year

Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com
March 06, 2013




atmospheric CO2 concentration synthesizing ice core proxy data 650,000 years in the past capped by modern direct measurements. Graph courtesy of NASA. Click to enlarge.

Carbon dioxide now makes up around 395 parts per million in the atmosphere, according to new data from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Measuring atmospheric carbon in Mauna Loa, Hawaii, the NOAA notes that last year saw a jump of 2.67 parts per million, second only to a record jump in carbon concentrations in 1998—2.93 parts per million. The news further dampens hopes that nations will stick to their goal of keeping global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.

Scientists told the Associated Press that the jump in atmospheric carbon was likely due to increased fossil fuel burning in developing countries, especially China. In addition, they say that last year the world's oceans and plants did not absorb as much carbon as usual.

By trapping heat in the atmosphere, rising levels of carbon dioxide are rapidly heating the planet. To date, global temperatures have risen by about 0.8 degrees Celsius (1.4 degrees Celsius) in the last century.

Global warming is causing a wide-variety of impacts already including rising sea levels, melting Arctic sea ice, vanishing glaciers, worsening severe weather, exacerbating floods and droughts, seasonal shifts, and species migrations. As the Earth continues to warn, scientists expect large-scale human migrations from islands and low-lying coastal areas, repeated crises for global agriculture, mass extinction, and possibly increased human conflict.

Last month, Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), dubbed climate change "the greatest economic challenge of the 21st Century."

"The science is sobering—the global temperature in 2012 was among the hottest since records began in 1880. Make no mistake: without concerted action, the very future of our planet is in peril," she said. "So we need growth, but we also need green growth that respects environmental sustainability. Good ecology is good economics. This is one reason why getting carbon pricing right and removing fossil fuel subsidies are so important."

In response to climate change, nations have pledged to keep temperatures below the 2 degree Celsius target. However, to date, not enough has been done to ensure temperatures will not rise significantly higher. Many developing nations, including China and India, continue to build coal-fired power plants, which are the world's most carbon-intensive energy source. Meanwhile, richer nations, such as the U.S. and Canada, have failed to treat climate change as a priority. The U.S. still has no national legislation to deal with carbon emissions, while it's neighbor to the north, Canada, has backed away from past pledges to expand its tar sands industry for carbon-intensive oil.













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CITATION:
Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com (March 06, 2013).

Near-record jump in carbon concentrations in global atmosphere last year.

http://news.mongabay.com/2013/0306-hance-atmospheric-carbon-2012.html