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expert reaction to WMO report that greenhouse gas concentrations in the Earth’s atmosphere increased at a record-breaking speed in 2016

The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) has reported that concentrations of CO2 – and other greenhouse gases – in the Earth’s atmosphere surged to a record high in 2016.


Prof. Richard Betts, Head of Climate Impacts Research at the Met Office Hadley Centre, said:

“This statement from the WMO verifies the first ever formal forecast of an annual CO2 rise, that we issued in early 2016. We predicted the record rise in CO2 in 2016 before it happened, using the Met Office’s seasonal forecast of sea surface temperatures combined with a statistical relationship with the annual CO2 rise, along with data on emissions of CO2 from burning fossil fuels and deforestation.  We predicted that the CO2 rise would be 3.15 +- -.53 ppm, so were close to observed rise of 3.3ppm and well within our uncertainty range.  The rise in 2016 was larger than in previous years due to the El Nino, and also larger than the rise that followed the previous large El Nino in 1997/98 because human emissions have increased since then.  The success of this forecast is a nice illustration that scientific understanding of the climate system can enable us to make successful predictions of future changes.”


Prof. Dave Reay, Professor of Carbon Management at the University of Edinburgh, said:

“This should set alarm bells ringing in the corridors of power. We know that, as climate change intensifies, the ability of the land and oceans to mop up our carbon emissions will weaken. There’s still time to steer these emissions down and so keep some control, but if we wait too long humankind will become a passenger on a one-way street to dangerous climate change.”


Prof. Martin Siegert, Co-Chair of the Grantham Institute at Imperial College, said:

“This isn’t a surprise to me. That CO2 continues to rise despite efforts to curtail emissions tells me two things: 1. That we must redouble our decarbonising efforts if we are to have a meaningful impact on greenhouse gas levels; and 2. That the role of the oceans in moderating atmospheric greenhouse gases is, and has always been, a vital component of the earth system – our interference on this system needs to be understood if we are to better predict future CO2 levels.”




Declared interests

Prof Dave Reay: “No interests declared”

None others received.

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