Greenhouse gas build-up continues in Earth’s atmosphere

Storms and deserts could follow climate change, expert warns

Ireland will be lashed by powerful storms and southern Europe could become as arid north Africa if greenhouse gas discharges continue unchecked, a climate expert has warned.

His concerns come as the World Meteorological Organisation yesterday issued the latest figures for greenhouse gas concentrations in the Earth's atmosphere. They showed a relentless rise in the levels of the three of the most powerful climate-changing gases: carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide.

These gases caused a 32 per cent increase in radiative forcing – the warming effect on our climate – between 1990 and 2012, the organisation said. They showed how heat-trapping gases from human activities had "upset the natural balance of our atmosphere" said its secretary general Michel Jarraud.

“We need to act now, otherwise we will jeopardise the future of our children, grandchildren and many future generations,” he said. “Time is not on our side.”

Carbon dioxide mainly from fossil fuel emissions accounted for 80 per cent of the warming. The gas has now reached 393.1 parts per million, up by 2.2 parts per million in 2012, the figures show. S far this year the gas has been rising at an average three parts per million.

High readings
Many monitoring stations around the world were already giving monthly averages above the symbolic 400 parts per million and this could become the global annual average figure by 2015, the report says.

Atmospheric methane reached a high of 1,819 parts per billion last year or 260 per cent of its pre-industrial level in 1750. Nitrous oxide has reached 325.1 part per billion, 120 per cent of the pre-industrial level. "It is the same message and the same warning – and both are falling repeatedly on deaf ears," said Prof Colin O'Dowd, professor of physics at NUI Galway and the director of the Centre for Climate and Air Pollution Studies there.

“In our latitudes it will mean warmer seas, more evaporation and more water vapour in the atmosphere so extreme storms,” he said. “It will be different for other places in Europe. Southern Europe will evolve into northern Africa with implications for food supply and maybe the migration of the population north.”

Prof Ray Bates of the Meteorology and Climate Centre at University College Dublin said: "It is very worrying in the long term." The international response to the situation had been poor but things would change if higher carbon dioxide levels led to the rapid loss of polar ice.

The figures were released on the day the European Commission proposed the legislation necessary for the EU to formally ratify the second commitment period (2013-2020) of the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.The second commitment period was agreed at the UN Climate Change Conference in Doha last December. The Commission would like the ratifications to be completed by February 2015.