Last year, a grim landmark was reached. Concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere persisted at levels above 400 parts per million for the first time in recorded history, signposting a “point of no return”.
A new global analysis by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) makes it clear just how serious this event was. As it turns out, Earth’s atmospheric concentration of the long-lasting greenhouse gas is the highest it’s been for 800,000 years.
Methane – a shorter-lived but far more potent greenhouse gas – is also present in the atmosphere in far higher quantities than expected, something that is also linked to human activities.
Apart from the ignition of fossil fuels, this record was also down to an extremely powerful El Niño event – a natural phenomenon that is exacerbated by man-made climate change.
El Niño restricts the ability of flora to absorb carbon dioxide whenever it causes extensive droughts. Normally, much of this excess carbon …