Concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached a record level

Earth from SpaceAmount of greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere in 2010 reached record levels, and the rate of increase in their concentration increased, said on Monday the annual report of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

"The impact on greenhouse gas emissions from human activities have once again reached record levels since pre-industrial times," — said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud.

"Even if we can stop today, our greenhouse gas emissions — and this is not the way — they will continue to persist in the atmosphere for decades to come and, therefore, continue to affect the delicate balance of our living planet and our climate," — said Jarraud.

According to the WMO, in the years 1990-2010 the growth of radiative forcing due to greenhouse gases (warming effect of our climate system) was 29%, while for carbon dioxide (CO2) accounts for almost 80% of this increase.

Greenhouse gases trap radiation in the Earth's atmosphere, causing it to warm. Human activities such as burning fossil fuels and agriculture, the main source of greenhouse gas emissions, which are drivers of climate change. After water vapor, the three most prevalent long-lived greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O).

Fraction of carbon dioxide in the total increase in the effects of greenhouse gases on the climate is 64%. Since the beginning of the industrial era in 1750, the CO2 content in the atmosphere has increased by 39% to 389 parts per million (the number of molecules of the gas per million molecules of dry air). This is due primarily to emissions from the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation and changes in land use.

In 2009-2010, the increase in CO2 in the atmosphere by up to 2.3 parts per million — higher than the average for both the 1990s (1.5 parts per million), and in the last decade (2.0 parts per million). For about 10,000 years before the start of the industrial era in the middle of the XVIII century, the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide remained almost constant at about 280 parts per million.

The share of methane in 1750 accounts for about 18% of the overall global radiative forcing. Before the industrial era, atmospheric methane was at the level of 700 parts per billion (number of molecules of the gas per billion molecules of dry air).

Since 1750 it has increased by 158%, mainly due to an increase in emissions that occur as a result of human activities such as animal husbandry, rice cultivation, the use of fossil fuels and the organization of landfills. On human activities now account for 60% of methane emissions, with the remaining 40% comes from natural sources such as wetlands.

Contribution of nitrous oxide (N2O) to the overall global increase in radiative forcing since 1750 is about 6%. Nitrous oxide is emitted to the atmosphere from natural and anthropogenic sources, including the oceans, biomass burning, fertilizer use and various industrial processes. The load on the atmosphere of nitrous oxide in 2010 was 323.2 parts per billion — 20% above the pre-industrial period. Average growth rates of the content of nitrous oxide in the atmosphere over the last ten years were about 0.75 parts per billion, mainly as a result of the use of nitrogen fertilizers, including organic fertilizers, which had a strong impact on the global nitrogen cycle.

Nitrous oxide in the atmosphere had an impact on the climate over a 100-year time period of 298 times greater than the equivalent carbon dioxide emissions. In addition, nitrous oxide plays an important role in the destruction of the stratospheric ozone layer that protects us from harmful ultraviolet sun rays.

The World Meteorological Organization is a specialized agency of the UN, its members include 189 countries and territories.

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