UN: Greenhouse gases hit record high in 2013

Greenhouse gas levels have increased at an exponential rate, hitting a record high last year, according to the United Nations.

The U.N. World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said Tuesday in a bulletin that carbon dioxide rose to 396 parts per million, putting concentrations at 142 percent of those before 1750.


The new data, the organization said, "injected even greater urgency into the need for concerted international action" against global warming.

The increase in atmospheric concentrations of carbon from 2012 to 2013 was 2.9 parts per million, the greatest year-to-year change since 1984, the organization said.

“We know without any doubt that our climate is changing and our weather is becoming more extreme due to human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels,” said WMO Secretary General Michel Jarraud.

"Carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for many hundreds of years and in the ocean for even longer. Past, present and future CO2 emissions will have a cumulative impact on both global warming and ocean acidification. The laws of physics are non-negotiable," Jarraud added.

This year's bulletin on the state of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere included for the first time a section dedicated to ocean acidification.  

According to the organization, the current rate of ocean acidification "appears unprecedented" when compared with the past 300 million years.

Due to the greater concentration of carbon in the atmosphere the ocean is absorbing more, leading to an increase in acidity.

Greater ocean acidification will impact marine organisms and reduce biodiversity, WMO said, adding that it is credited with accelerating climate change events.

“If global warming is not a strong enough reason to cut CO2 emissions, ocean acidification should be, since its effects are already being felt and will increase for many decades to come," said Wendy Watson-Wright, executive secretary of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO.

The WMO analysis comes as global leaders plan to meet on Sept. 23 in New York for the U.N. climate summit.

The summit is being touted as a "major turning point" for negotiations in the final 15 months before what may be the final chance for 120 nations to agree on an internationally binding pact to address greenhouse gas emissions.