The United Nations' World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has released a new report showing that all key greenhouses gases measured in 2018 increased at above average rates for the last decade.
Against the backdrop of a climate emergency, the gap between targets set by governments for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and the real situation was 'glaring and growing'.
Petteri Taalas, Secretary General of the WMO said, “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."
He went on to explain that the last time there was a similar concentration of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere was 3-5 million years ago. Then, global average temperatures were 2-3C warmer and the sea level was 10-20 metres higher than it is today.
Around 75% of the emissions cuts so far pledged by governments around the world under the 2015 Paris agreement have been judged 'totally inadequate' in a report published earlier this month by the Universal Ecological Fund.
The news from the WMO's report is that the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the planet's atmosphere is up from 405.5 parts per million (ppm) in 2017 to 407.8ppm in 2018. The concentration of CO2 is now 47% higher than it was in 1750, before the industrial revolution set humans on a pathway to burning more and more fossil fuels.
And it's not just CO2 that is increasing. The concentration of methane in the atmosphere is now 259% higher than it was in 1750. Around 40% of methane is emitted from natural sources like wetlands, whilst 60% comes from human activities, such as landfills, rice cultivation and cattle farming.
Meanwhile, nitrous oxide, which is emitted by the world's oceans and from human activities like forest burning and using fertilisers in farming, is now at 123% of 1750 levels. For both these gases, the increase in the last year has been greater than both the previous year and the average over the last ten years.
The overall warming impact of these increases in greenhouse gas, known as 'radiative forcing' has increased by 43% since 1990. Radiative forcing is still increasing.
Under the 2015 Paris agreement, the world's nations pledged to ramp up their emissions cuts by the 2020 UN climate summit, which is being hosted in Glasgow, Scotland. On this evidence, and the evidence of many recent climate change reports, including the Gap Report 2019, there needs to be a concerted global effort to not just set much more ambitious emissions targets, but to actively enforce them too.
In other news, 'climate emergency' was last week announced as Oxford Dictionaries' Word of the Year. Use of the term has increased by 10,000% over the last year. It is defined by the dictionary as "a situation in which urgent action is required to reduce or halt climate change and avoid potentially irreversible environmental damage resulting from it"