The World Meteorological Organisation’s annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin highlights an alarming increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration between 2012 and 2013. The WMO argues that the significant increase in CO2 makes clear the pressing need for a global climate treaty.

CO2 Concentration

More on the WMO Greenhouse Gas Bulletin

Of note, the WMO’s Greenhouse Gas Bulletin isn’t measuring emissions from smokestacks and cars, but instead records how much of the co2 and other greenhouse (warming) gases remain in the atmosphere following the complex chemical reactions in the air, on land and in the oceans. On average, close to half of all greenhouse gas emissions are absorbed up by the oceans, plants and living organisms.

The 2014 bulletin reported that the global average amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere hit 396 parts per million in 2013, an increase of 3 ppm from 2012.

Statements from WMO officials on CO2 concentration

Several WMO officials commented on the importance of the findings in the recent report. “The Greenhouse Gas Bulletin shows that, far from falling, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere actually increased last year at the fastest rate for nearly 30 years,” said Michel Jarraud, secretary general of the WMO.

“We must reverse this trend by cutting emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases across the board,” he continued. “We are running out of time.”

Oksana Tarasova, chief of the atmospheric research division at the WMO, offered further insight into the data and the complexities of climate research. “The climate system is not linear, it is not straightforward. It is not necessarily reflected in the temperature in the atmosphere, but if you look at the temperature profile in the ocean, the heat is going in the oceans.”

Worrisome trend

The WMO researchers noted that the increase in CO2 last year was due not only to greater emissions but also to a reduced carbon uptake by the Earth’s biosphere.

This development has researchers puzzled and worried. 1998 was the last time there was a reduction in the biosphere’s ability to absorb carbon, and that year saw huge global forest fires, together with El Nino conditions.

“In 2013 there are no obvious impacts on the biosphere so it is more worrying,” Tarasova explains. “We don’t understand if this is temporary or if it is a permanent state, and we are a bit worried about that. It could be that the biosphere is at its limit but we cannot tell that at the moment.”

It’s also important to note the WMO data shows there was an 34% increase in the warming impact on the climate over the last 24 years because carbon dioxide and other greenhouses gases such as methane and nitrous oxide can survive for many years in the atmosphere.