Climate crisis fuels record-breaking temperatures, floods, and superstorms across the globe, but humans continue to fail in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, according to new data from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, and nitrous oxide – the three primary greenhouse gases produced by human activities that contribute most to global warming – continued their historically high rates of growth in 2022.
Carbon dioxide levels rose by over two parts per million (ppm) for the 11th consecutive year, which is the highest sustained rate of CO2 increase since monitoring began 65 years ago. In addition, atmospheric CO2 levels are now 50% higher than pre-industrial levels.
The NOAA report shows that methane levels reached an average of 1,911.9 parts per billion (ppb).
Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that traps more heat in the Earth’s atmosphere compared to carbon dioxide and is responsible for approximately 25% of all greenhouse gas-induced heat.
The 2022 rise in methane is the fourth-largest since records began in 1983, following record growth in 2020 and 2021. Methane levels in the atmosphere are now more than two and a half times their pre-industrial level.
The third-most significant anthropogenic greenhouse gas, nitrous oxide, has also seen a rapid rise in its levels, increasing by 1.24 ppb to 335.7 ppb in 2022.
This represents a 24% increase over its pre-industrial level of 270 ppb. Increases in atmospheric nitrous oxide during recent decades are mainly due to the use of nitrogen fertilizers and manure from industrialized agriculture.
Scientists have long warned about the catastrophic consequences of rising greenhouse gas emissions. However, meaningful climate action to cut fossil fuel use and other harmful human activities has been delayed and blocked, largely due to the influence of industries such as oil and gas, agriculture, defense, and automobiles.
Last month, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change delivered a “final warning” on rising greenhouse gas emissions, which have brought the world closer to irrevocable damage that only swift and drastic action can prevent.
NOAA’s data highlights the urgent need for humans to take concrete measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. “The observations collected by NOAA scientists in 2022 show that greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise at an alarming pace and will persist in the atmosphere for thousands of years,” warns Rick Spinrad, the NOAA administrator.
The time is now to address greenhouse gas pollution and to lower human-caused emissions as we continue to build toward a Climate-Ready Nation.”