Greenhouse gas concentrations are trending in the wrong direction.
The World Meteorological Organization reported that atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and other greenhouse gases reached new highs in 2018.
Before I go any farther, let me explain the difference between greenhouse gas concentrations and greenhouse gas emissions. Emissions refer to the amount of gases that enter the atmosphere from the use of fossil fuels such as oil and coal. Concentrations are what’s left in the air after a “complex series of interactions between the atmosphere, the oceans, the forests, and the land,” according to a BBC article on the report.
Using data from monitoring stations around the world, researchers have found that in 2018, concentrations of carbon dioxide reached 407.8 parts per million (ppm), up from 405.5 ppm in 2017.
A difference of two parts per million may not seem like much, but the increase was above average for the last 10 years, and the current concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is 147 percent of the “pre-industrial” level in 1750.
Not only that, but the amount of long-lived greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has increased 43 percent since 1990. The overall warming impact of all these increasing greenhouse gas concentrations, or total radiative forcing, is what concerns the scientists the most, along with the fact that there doesn’t seem to be any indication that the upward trend is changing.
“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,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said. “We need to translate these commitments into action and increase the level of ambition for the sake of the future welfare of mankind.”
Taalas also noted that the Earth experienced a similar concentration of CO2 three to five million years ago. Back then, sea levels were 10 to 20 meters (32 – 65 feet) higher than they are now, and the temperature was 2 to 3 degrees C (5 – 7 degrees F) warmer.
In case it’s not totally obvious, if our nations’ leaders won’t do anything to combat climate change—or if they reverse the course of action on climate change, as the Trump administration did six months after entering office in January 2017—it’s up to us to not only use our voices but to use our votes to get them out of office and get officials who care about climate change and are willing to take action into office.