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WMO: Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reach New Highs in 2004

Globally averaged concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) in the planet’s atmosphere reached their highest ever-recorded levels in 2004 according to the World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO) first annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin.

CO2 was recorded at 377.1 parts per million (ppm), CH4 at 1783 parts per billion (ppb), and N2O at 318.6 ppb. These values supersede those of pre-industrial times by 35%, 155% and 118% respectively, and increased over the previous decade by 19ppm, 37ppb and 8ppb in absolute amounts.

Global observations coordinated by WMO show that levels of carbon dioxide, the most abundant greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, continue to increase steadily and show no signs of levelling off.

—Michel Jarraud, WMO Secretary-General

The 35% rise in carbon dioxide since the late 1700s has largely been generated by emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels. In 2004, CO2 increased by 1.8 ppm or 0.47% when compared with the previous year.

In contrast, atmospheric levels of methane have shown signs of reaching a plateau with virtually no rise in 2004 and changing by less than 5 ppb per year since 1999. Human activity such as fossil fuel exploitation, rice agriculture, biomass burning, landfills and ruminant farm animals account for some 60% of atmospheric CH4, with natural processes including those produced by wetlands and termites responsible for the remaining 40%.

Nitrous oxide in the atmosphere has been steadily rising by about 0.8 ppb per year since 1988. Around one third of N2O discharged into the air is a result of human activities such as fuel combustion, biomass burning, fertilizer use and some industrial processes.

Global Abundances of Key GHG
  CO2 (ppm) CH4 (ppb) N2O (ppb)
Global abundance 377.1 1,783 318.6
2004 abundance relative to year 1750 135% 255% 118%
2004 absolute increase from 2003 1.8 0 0.7
2004 relative increase from 2003 0.47% 0% 0.22%
Mean annual absolute increase during last 10 years 1.9 3.7 0.8

Accurate observations from some 44 WMO Members are archived and distributed by the World Data Centre for Greenhouse Gases (WDCGG), located at the Japan Meteorological Agency. WMO prepares the Bulletin in cooperation with WDCGG and the Global Atmosphere Watch Scientific Advisory Group for Greenhouse Gases with the assistance of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Earth System Research Laboratory. WMO plans to release the 2005 bulletin in November 2006.



Joseph Willemssen

Clearly biodiesel plug-ins are the best solution to this problem.

There - now that that's out of the way, you're all free to actually comment on this post's content.


I honestly don't worry so much about CO2. It is not the sole arbiter of climate, and the level of CO2 is actually quite low compared to the majority of Earth's history. I found this article about paleoclimate quite illuminating. Most interesting the article notes is the Ordoviciam Ice Age--which happened at a time when CO2 was about 4,400ppm.

Joseph Willemssen

"the level of CO2 is actually quite low compared to the majority of Earth's history"

The Earth has been uninhabitable for most of its history. Your point?


My point, if you read the article that I linked to, is that there are other factors: Land use, ocean currents, continental configuration.


Cervus. Go to www.realclimate.org Present your findings to them. After you get a response, come back and tell us how you then feel about the causes and impacts of global warming.


If you look at the average temperature in the Ordovician period, it was off the charts, consistent with the effects of CO2. In fact, the whole chart cited in your article is consistent with CO2 theory and global warming. No one one earth presently would want to live in the ordivician period. The fact that there was some ice does not change the fact that the planet was largely uninhabitable.


Scratch my last post. Go to climate.org for an explanation.


Cervus, you are absolutely right that climate depends on a whole host of things including landmass distribution, solar output, etc. And Life (with a big L) is amazingly robust: even the Permian extinction could not extinguish it. (Though that would be of little consolation if you were a trilobite, a sailback pelycosaur, a Helicoprionid shark, or any of the vast majority of lifeforms that were obliterated in this event.) If global temperatures increase even more than the worst case estimates of the IPCC, Life (with a big L) would go on without a hitch; and if they were capable of it, no doubt insects, jellyfish, and microbes would relish the propect.

But that is not our problem. Our problem is much more parochial: we as a species evolved and fluorished under landmass distributions and solar output essentially identical to the present day, under similar or lower mean temperatures, with a much lower population density. Global change is accelerating and is now on a time scale similar to or shorter than cultural memory and even generational turnover. It will likely never be possible to prove that we as a species are driving this change: it is far FAR more difficult to argue the opposite, however. We are our problem: fortunately, though, as an intelligent species we as individuals are capable of recognizing this and changing our behavior. The question is, are we as social and political creatures also capable of this?

(BTW: biodiesel plugins would be a good start to dealing with the problem!)

Rafael Seidl

From a Western European point of view, global warming is highly relevant because the glaciers in Greenland are advancing more rapidly. There is a possibility that due to non-linearities in the system, the thermohaline convection of the Gulf Stream could cease altogether (it has already diminished noticeably). This would result in a small but quite significant cooling of the climate - cp. the "Little Ice Age" from ~1500 - ~1750, as depeicted by Breughel the Elder and others. The economic and social consequences of a recurrence would be significant and spill over well beyond Europe's borders.

There are no magic bullet here and biodiesel plug-in hybrids are no exception. Instead, every sector of the economy - including electricity generation, heavy industry, space climatization, transportation - has to come up with affordable, incremental improvements and apply them at a large enough scale in a reasonable amount of time. As consumers, we have the ability to influence this process if we are prepared to pay a small premium over the lowest possible economic cost.

The lowest hanging fruit is energy wasted due to inefficiencies in legacy technology. In part, these become apparent in engineering R&D. However, many are the result of incorrect forecasts for the cost of operations (incl. associated environmental damage such as climate change) and/or structural barriers (e.g. the lack of piping for district heating) and, much harder to correct due to the high economic value of existing assets.

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