Feeds

Greenhouse gases break record again, says top UN weather man

US down, but pesky poor folk emitting like crazy

Intelligent flash storage arrays

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has announced that the amount of greenhouse gasses – including the ever-contentious CO2 – increased to record levels in 2011.

"These billions of tonnes of additional carbon dioxide in our atmosphere will remain there for centuries, causing our planet to warm further and impacting on all aspects of life on earth," said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud in a statement. "Future emissions will only compound the situation."

The situation to which Jarraud refers is the fact that since the industrial era cranked up around 1750, the WHO estimates that about 375 billion tonnes of carbon have been pumped into our increasingly toasty atmosphere, "primarily from fossil fuel combustion".

This sobering – if not unexpected – assessment comes from the WMO's annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, which noted that between 1990 and 2011 there has been a 30 per cent increase in radiative forcing, the heat-trapping effect engendered by CO2 and the two other long-lived greenhouse gasses, methane and nitrous oxide.

The good news, Jarraud says, is that up until the present, the Earth's carbon sinks have absorbed nearly half of all the CO2 that our power plants, automobiles, and the like have been spitting into the air. The bad news is that natural carbon sequestration won't necessarily be our friend forever; oceans, for example, are becoming more acidic as they absorb CO2, "with potential repercussions for the underwater food chain and coral reefs," Jarraud says.

According to the WMO report, here's the 2011 scorecard for the prime radiative-forcing gasses:

  • Carbon dioxide (CO2): 390.9 parts per million, 140 per cent of the pre-industrial level
  • Methane (CH4): 1,813 parts per billion, 259 per cent of the pre-industrial level
  • Nitrous oxide (N2O): 324.2 parts per billion, 120 per cent of the pre-industrial level

While the amounts of atmospheric CH4 and N2O - projected over a 100-year period - are significantly smaller than that of CO2, it should be kept in mind that both are significantly more effective at radiative forcing than CO2. CH4 is about 20 times as Earth-toasting as CO2, and N2O is a breathtaking 298 times more effective at radiative forcing than CO2.

WHO Greenhouse Gas Bulletin report graph

Greenhouse gasses and their radiative-forcing effects show no sign of abating

Interestingly, the US is doing quite a respectable job cutting its CO2 emissions. According to the Energy Information Administration, the US's total energy-related carbon emissions dropped in early 2012 to their lowest point since 1992, thanks to a mild winter, power plants switching from coal to cleaner natural gas (thanks, low prices), and reduced demand for steadily more expensive gasoline.

Unfortunately, however, the developing world seems to be quite effective in picking up the slack, as Tuesday's WMO report abundantly shows. ®

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Boffins who stare at goats: I do believe they’re SHRINKING
Alpine chamois being squashed by global warming
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
LONG ARM of the SAUR: Brachially gifted dino bone conundrum solved
Deinocheirus mirificus was a bit of a knuckle dragger
MARS NEEDS WOMEN, claims NASA pseudo 'naut: They eat less
'Some might find this idea offensive' boffin admits
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.