The three primary gases contributing to the climate problem reached record quantities in 2021.
The UN World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO) Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, which tracks the atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane, came to that grim conclusion on Wednesday.
Professor Petteri Taalass, the secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), said in a statement announcing the findings that the WMO’s Greenhouse Gas Bulletin has once again highlighted the enormous challenge and the critical necessity of urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and stop future increases in global temperatures.
The report found that in 2021, methane emissions reached 1,908 parts per billion (ppb), or 262 percent of pre-industrial levels, atmospheric carbon dioxide emissions reached 415.7 parts per million (ppm), or 149 percent of pre-industrial levels, and nitrous oxide emissions reached 334.5 ppb or 124 percent of pre-industrial levels. The increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide between 2020 and 2021 exceeded the decade’s average annual growth rate. However, methane levels increased to their greatest level since records have been kept, which was nearly 40 years ago.
We are moving in the wrong way, Taalas continued, as evidenced by the primary heat-trapping gases’ concentrations continuing to climb, including methane levels increasing at a record rate.
According to the Environmental Defense Fund, methane is worrisome since it represents at least 25% of the cause of climate change and is more than 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide during its first 20 years in the atmosphere. According to UN News, methane concentrations have also been rising since 2007, though experts are not completely sure why.
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According to The Guardian, the surge in fracking in the United States may be one explanation. This theory, however, is called into question because global industrial emissions have not increased by the same amount. Warmer temperatures boost methane-producing microorganisms in places like rice paddies and wetlands as well as in the intestines of animals like cows, suggesting that the climate issue is perhaps forming a feedback loop. Methane has a significantly faster fading atmospheric imprint than carbon dioxide, which is encouraging.
We should immediately put into practice the cost-efficient methods that are available to address methane emissions, particularly those from the fossil fuel industry. Methane, however, has a lifespan of fewer than 10 years, making its effect on the climate reversible. Taalas stated in the press release that reducing carbon dioxide emissions should be our top priority because they are the primary cause of climate change and the related extreme weather. These emissions will also have a long-term impact on climate through polar ice loss, ocean warming, and sea level rise.
Even though the WMO report concentrated on atmospheric concentrations, not all emissions of greenhouse gases end up in the atmosphere. According to UN News, between 2011 and 2021, over 48 percent of greenhouse gas emissions were absorbed by the atmosphere, 26 percent by the ocean, and 29 percent by the land. If emissions persist, there is a worry that these carbon sinks will lose some of their effectiveness.
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In addition to publishing the State of the Global Climate report just before the discussions, the UN agency released the study ahead of the COP27 UN Climate Conference in Egypt in November. The WMO anticipates that the data will highlight for decision-makers how critical it is to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
Our entire way of life, including our industrial, energy, and transportation systems, needs to change. The required improvements are both technically and economically feasible. Taalas declared in his remarks that time was running out.