UN says greenhouse gases in atmosphere hit record high in 2022

Leader of UN’s meteorological agency says the world is still ‘heading in the wrong direction’ and must cut use of fossil fuels.

Years of coal plant expansion torment Turkey's villagers
A villager in Manisa, Turkey, prepares a pot of tea with a coal-fired power plant in the background on August 15, 2023 [Bulent Kilic/AFP]

The United Nations says the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere surged to new highs last year as climate change fuelled extreme weather across the globe.

In a bulletin released on Wednesday, the UN’s World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said three main greenhouse gases broke records in 2022 and warned that there is “no end in sight”.

“Despite decades of warnings from the scientific community, thousands of pages of reports and dozens of climate conferences, we are still heading in the wrong direction,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said.

This month, the UN’s annual climate summit is scheduled to start in Dubai and could include a push to phase out the use of fossil fuels before 2050. But thus far, countries that account for large shares of the world’s carbon emissions have fallen far short of the cuts needed.

The UN weather agency said global concentrations of carbon dioxide were 50 percent higher than the pre-industrial average, an unsettling new record. Other gases, such as methane and nitrous oxide, also reached new highs.

“The current level of greenhouse gas concentrations puts us on the pathway of an increase in temperatures well above the Paris Agreement targets by the end of this century,” said Taalas, referring to the goal of limiting global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial times.

“This will be accompanied by more extreme weather, including intense heat and rainfall, ice melt, sea level rise and ocean heat and acidification.”

About 80 percent of greenhouse gas emissions come from the G20, a group of the world’s major economies.

While carbon emissions can be cut, Taalas said that once concentrated in the atmosphere, carbon “takes thousands of years” to be removed, contributing to trends such as the rise in sea levels.

“About half of the planet has been facing an increase of flooding events, and one third of the planet has been facing an increase of drought events,” Taalas said.

“We must reduce the consumption of fossil fuels as a matter of urgency,” he added.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies