Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

A still from a NASA animation showing how carbon dioxide moves around the planet. (Screenshot: NASA)

Overheated Planet Entering 'Uncharted Territory at Frightening Speed'

Head of the World Meteorological Organization warned that dangerous milestone of 400 ppm will soon be a "permanent reality"

Lauren McCauley

With new evidence that the concentration of greenhouse gases broke yet another record in 2014, the head of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) warned on Monday that the warming planet is hurtling "into uncharted territory at a frightening speed."

The United Nations weather agency's latest Greenhouse Gas Bulletin (pdf) reports that atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) reached 397.7 parts per million (ppm) in 2014, substantially beyond the 350ppm level deemed "safe" by scientists to avoid global warming.

WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said this means that we will "soon" be living with globally averaged CO2 levels above the dangerous milestone of 400 ppm "as a permanent reality."

"We can’t see CO2. It is an invisible threat, but a very real one," Jarraud said. "It means hotter global temperatures, more extreme weather events like heatwaves and floods, melting ice, rising sea levels, and increased acidity of the oceans. This is happening now and we are moving into uncharted territory at a frightening speed."

The report further shows that concentrations of the most prevalent greenhouse gases reached new highs in 2014 with industrial, agricultural, and domestic activities driving dramatic increases since pre-industrial times. Carbon levels have increased 143 percent, nitrous oxide (N2O) is at 121 percent, and methane (CH4) reached an eye-popping 254 percent increase since 1750. 

WMO warns that this "relentless rise" is fueling climate change and "will make the planet more dangerous and inhospitable for future generations."

This latest bulletin comes just three weeks before the COP21 climate talks are set to begin in Paris, during which global leaders are expected to set international targets for greenhouse gas emissions.

"Every year we report a new record in greenhouse gas concentrations," Jarraud continued. "Every year we say that time is running out. We have to act NOW to slash greenhouse gas emissions if we are to have a chance to keep the increase in temperatures to manageable levels."

The annual report also notes that the Earth's rising surface temperature is driving another vicious cycle, where increased concentrations of water vapor, a short-lived greenhouse gas, further adds to the warming effect by trapping even more heat. "The laws of physics are non-negotiable," Jarraud added.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

'Biggest Win for Tax Fairness' in Decades: Progressives Cheer Reforms in IRA, Demand More

"While this bill establishes desperately needed changes to our tax laws and IRS funding, it is still a far cry from the systemic changes that we need in our society to rectify the hold the rich still have on every level of our economy."

Kenny Stancil ·


'Care Can't Wait': IRA a Good Start, Progressives Say, But More Is Needed

"Americans deserve a full loaf of bread," said health justice advocate Ady Barkan.

Kenny Stancil ·


'I'm Back': Fetterman Returns to Campaign Trail Following May Stroke

"I'm not only grateful to be alive, but also for the campaign we're building together," said the Democratic nominee for Pennsylvania's open U.S. Senate seat.

Kenny Stancil ·


Because Climate Science 'Does Not Grade on a Curve,' Experts Says IRA Not Enough

"There is an urgent need for much more aggressive and far-reaching measures to prevent climate chaos," said the head of one progressive consumer advocacy group.

Brett Wilkins ·


'Game-Changer and Reason for Hope': House Passes Inflation Reduction Act

"We've got more to do," Rep. Pramila Jayapal said on the House floor. "But today, let's celebrate this massive investment for the people."

Jake Johnson ·

Common Dreams Logo