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Even if the world acts now, climate change will persist for centuries, official says

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
November 7th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The World Meteorological Organization Secretary-General Michel Jarraud says that the world has made its bed - and now must lay in it. Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases reached their absolute peak last year, and even if the world were to stop using CO2 emissions today, mankind will have to endure the changes wrought by climate change for centuries.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The organization reports that this accelerating trend will have devastating consequences on the world's weather, unless developed nations do more to to rein in emissions. 

The warming effect on the Earth's climate has risen by nearly one-third since 1990, the U.N. Agency says. This is mainly due to atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases, such as methane and nitrous oxide.

The Greenhouse Gas Bulletin notes that fossil fuel-related emissions, mainly from carbon dioxide, account for 80 percent of the increase in warming. CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere grew more rapidly last year than the average growth rate over the past decade.

Jarraud says the increase of carbon dioxide is mostly due to human activity, such as industry, energy production, land use and deforestation, among other factors.

"CO2 is a very stable gas, so it means that there is no sort of chemical reaction which would naturally destroy CO2 [in] the atmosphere. So it stays for very long periods - hundreds of years, or even more. And that is why, as a consequence, the actions we take now or the actions we do not take now will have consequences for a very, very long period," Jarraud says.

Methane is the second biggest contributor to greenhouse gas and to the potential warming of the atmosphere. About 40 percent of methane reaches the atmosphere from natural sources, such as wetlands and termites, with the remaining  60 percent from human activities including cattle breeding, rice agriculture, fossil fuel exploitation and biomass burning.

Nitrous oxide is the third most important greenhouse gas. Sixty percent of emissions come from natural sources and 40 percent from human activity. Nitrous oxide also plays an important role in the destruction of the atmosphere's ozone layer, which protects people from the harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun.

"We are worried not only about the impact on temperature, which is important, but also the impact on the water cycle - more droughts, more floods in other parts of the world. We are worried about the impact on a number of extreme weather events. We are worried about the impact on the sea level," Jarraud says.

Jarraud warns global average temperatures may be 4.6 degrees higher than pre-industrial levels by the end of this century if the world carries on with "business as usual."

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