UN Agency Warns of 'Ominous' Rise in Greenhouse Gases

Methane in atmosphere posts biggest climb in decades
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 26, 2022 5:13 PM CDT
UN Agency Warns of 'Ominous' Rise in Greenhouse Gases
A cow walks through a field as an oil pumpjack and a flare burning off methane and other hydrocarbons stand in the background in the Permian Basin in Jal, New Mexico, last October.   (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)

The three main greenhouse gases hit record high levels in the atmosphere last year, the UN weather agency said Wednesday, calling it an "ominous" sign as war in Ukraine, rising costs of food and fuel, and other worries have elbowed in on longtime concerns about global warming in recent months. "More bad news for the planet," the World Meteorological Organization said in a statement along with its latest annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin. It's one of several reports released in recent days looking at aspects of humanity's struggle with climate change in the run-up to the UN climate conference in Egypt, the AP reports.

Of the three main types of heat-trapping greenhouse gases—carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide—the biggest jump from 2020 to 2021 was in methane, whose concentrations in the air came in with the biggest year-on-year increase since regular measurements began four decades ago, WMO said. The data show "we are heading in the wrong direction," said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas. Methane is more potent at trapping heat than carbon dioxide but doesn't stay in the atmosphere nearly as long, and there's 200 times more carbon dioxide in the air than methane. Over a 20-year time period, a molecule of methane traps about 81 times the heat as a molecule of carbon dioxide, but over a century it goes down to trapping 28 times more heat per molecule than carbon dioxide, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Earlier on Wednesday, the UN's climate office said current pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions put the planet on course to blow past the limit for global warming that countries agreed to in the 2015 Paris climate accord. It said its latest estimate based on 193 national emissions targets would see temperatures rise to 2.5 degrees Celsius (4.5 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial averages by the end of the century, a full degree higher than the goal set in the Paris pact to limit warming by 1.5 C (2.7 F). "We are still nowhere near the scale and pace of emission reductions required to put us on track toward a 1.5 degrees Celsius world," the head of the UN climate office, Simon Stiell, said in a statement. "To keep this goal alive, national governments need to strengthen their climate action plans now and implement them in the next eight years."

(More greenhouse gases stories.)

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