The amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached a new record in 2012, continuing an upward and accelerating trend that is driving climate change and will shape the future of the planet, the UN World Meteorological Organization said overnight. 

The organization’s annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin shows that between 1990 and 2012 there was a 32 per cent rise in radiative forcing – the warming effect on our climate – because of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other heat-trapping long-lived gases such as methane and nitrous oxide. 

The rise of CO2, in particular, from 2011 to 2012 was higher than its average growth rate over the past decade. CO2, mainly from fossil fuel emissions, accounted for 80 per cent of the increase. 

The WMO Secretary-General, Michel Jarraud, is quoted as saying: “The observations from WMO’s extensive Global Atmosphere Watch network highlight yet again how heat-trapping gases from human activities have upset the natural balance of our atmosphere and are a major contribution to climate change.”

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its recent 5th Assessment Report stressed that atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide have increased to levels unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years,” he said.

“As a result of this, our climate is changing, our weather is more extreme, ice sheets and glaciers are melting and sea levels are rising.” 

“According to the IPCC, if we continue with ‘business as usual,’ global average temperatures may be 4.6 degrees higher by the end of the century than pre-industrial levels – and even higher in some parts of the world. This would have devastating consequences.” . 

The WMO Greenhouse Gas Bulletin reports on atmospheric concentrations – and not emissions – of greenhouse gases. Emissions represent what goes into the atmosphere. Concentrations represent what remains in the atmosphere after the complex system of interactions between the atmosphere, biosphere and the oceans.