Shutterstock

Greenhouse gas levels hit new high, according to U.N. report

When it comes to greenhouse gases in our environment, the role they play in our current climate emergency can't really be understated. And it looks like their concentration has now reached a new record high. A report from the World Meteorological Organization, backed by the U.N., states that recent jumps in the amount of greenhouse gases found in our atmosphere were higher than other recorded averages across the previous decade. In simple terms, it appears the measures that have been taken in an effort to quell the current climate emergency we're experiencing really aren't taking effect. You don't have to be a scientist to know that's bad news.

"There is no sign of a slowdown, let alone a decline, despite all the commitments under the Paris agreement on climate change. We need to increase the level of ambition for the sake of the future welfare of mankind," said WMO secretary general Petteri Taalas in an interview with The Guardian.

Over the years, the heating effect we know as global warming has been increasing at an alarming rate. In fact, its detrimental effects are now 43% stronger than they've been since 1990, and most of it is caused by CO2. According to expert analysis from November, the cuts for emissions outlined as part of 2015's Paris Climate Agreement actually don't appear to be enough to keep Earth from its impending climate disaster.

"The [CO2 concentration] number is the closest thing to a real-world Doomsday Clock, and it’s pushing us ever closer to midnight," John Sauven, head of Greenpeace UK, told The Guardian. "Our ability to preserve civilization as we know it, avert the mass extinction of species, and leave a healthy planet to our children depend on us urgently stopping the clock."

Previously, the United Nations report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had suggested we would have until 2030 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to at least 45 percent below 2010's levels. We'd have until 2050 to reach net zero. Even by lowering the emissions 45 percent, however, we'll still see climate change and the echoes of the effects our actions have had on the environment, albeit to a lesser degree than we would otherwise.

The key gases we're seeing higher concentrations of include carbon dioxide, most importantly, as well as methane and nitrous oxide. According to the report, methane is produced as a result of fields of cattle, fossil fuel use, and rice paddies. Its concentration in the atmosphere has doubled since pre-industrial times, and it accounts for 17% of the damage caused by the combined greenhouse gas levels.

Nitrous oxide can be attributed to forest burning as well as fertilizer use, and is about 235 higher than all the way back in 1750, all according to the Global Atmosphere Watch network.

"It is worth recalling that the last time the Earth experienced a comparable concentration of carbon dioxide was 3-5m years ago. Back then, the temperature was 2-3C warmer and sea level was 10-20 meters higher than now," Sauven continued.

The report underscores that we are in a true climate emergency. It's getting to be too late for any sort of real resolution that would allow us to say we were able to reverse the damage (even partially) that we've done to the planet.