Like huge, ravening monsters, the top causes of global warming are ignoring man’s attempts to stop them and continue to hit record highs, according to the World Meteorological Organisation.
The level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the biggest single cause of global warming, rose by 2ppm (parts per million) in 2010-2011, reaching a new record of 391ppm or 140% of pre-industrial levels. Carbon dioxide is responsible for up to 85% of global warming.
Other greenhouse gas emissions have also hit new highs, including nitrous oxide, which has a far longer-lasting effect on global warming than other greenhouse gases and is partly responsible for destroying the planet’s protectiove ozone layer.
Taken together, these three gases have caused a 30% increase in the global warming effect since 1990, the equivalent of 473ppm carbon dioxide.
Methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide but its release into the atmosphere had plateaued up until 2007, when it started to rise again with increasing rapidity. There are concerns that this may be in part due to melting permafrost and tundra, which could signal global warming starting to run out of control.
“Until now, carbon sinks have absorbed nearly half of the carbon dioxide humans emitted in the atmosphere,” said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud. “But this will not necessarily continue in the future.
“We have already seen that the oceans are becoming more acidic as a result of the carbon dioxide uptake, with potential repercussions for the underwater food chain and coral reefs.
“Future emissions will only compound the situation.”
The revelations come just a day after the World Bank said a catestophic rise of 4°C (7°F) was looking increasingly likely, adding more fuel to speculation surrounding a carbon tax.
Chris is a seasoned sustainability journalist focusing on business, finance and clean technology. His writing's been carried by a number of highly respected publishers, including The Guardian, The Washington Post and Scientific American. You can follow him on twitter as @britesprite, where he's one of Mashable's top green tweeters and Fast Company's CSR thought leaders. Alternatively you can follow him to the shops... but that would be boring.