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All-time high CO2 levels could be new normal

"We can’t see CO2. It is an invisible threat, but a very real one," said Michel Jarraud, WMO secretary general.

By
Brooks Hays
A new WMO report announced record-breaking CO2 levels recorded in the spring of 2015. Many expect 2015 to be the hottest year on record. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
A new WMO report announced record-breaking CO2 levels recorded in the spring of 2015. Many expect 2015 to be the hottest year on record. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

GENEVA, Switzerland, Nov. 9 (UPI) -- Today's record is tomorrow's baseline -- that's the message from the World Meteorological Organization, who today announced greenhouse gas levels reached an all-time high earlier this year.

This spring, carbon dioxide levels across much of the globe eclipsed the symbolic threshold of 400 parts per million. CO2 concentrations have since receded, but WMO scientists suggest the global average will likely pass 400 for good sometime in 2016, ushering in a new normal.

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"We will soon be living with globally averaged CO2 levels above 400 parts per million as a permanent reality," Michel Jarraud, WMO secretary general, said in a released statement.

"We can't see CO2. It is an invisible threat, but a very real one," Jarraud added. "It means hotter global temperatures, more extreme weather events like heatwaves and floods, melting ice, rising sea levels and increased acidity of the oceans. This is happening now and we are moving into uncharted territory at a frightening speed."

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Since 1990, the cumulative effect warming effect of greenhouse gases -- CO2, methane and nitrous oxide -- has increased 36 percent.

The new report also highlighted the less talked about warming effect of water vapor. As greenhouse gases warm the atmosphere, the atmosphere can hold more water.

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"Excess energy trapped by CO2 and other greenhouse gases is heating up the Earth surface which leads to increase in atmospheric water vapour which in turn is generating/trapping even more heat," Jarraud explained.

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The new record CO2 levels arrive alongside record-setting global temperature averages. Antarctica charted its highest high on record, while the planet featured the warmest summer in modern history. Most expect 2015 to be the hottest year on record, beating out 2014.

The new numbers come three weeks before delegates from 190 nations are set to meet in Paris to discuss plans to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.

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