U.N.: 2004 sets record for “greenhouse gases”

“Greenhouse gases” in the Earth’s atmosphere reached record highs in 2004 and are still climbing, the World Meteorological Organization said Tuesday.

GENEVA, Switzerland (AP) — “Greenhouse gases” in the Earth’s atmosphere reached record highs in 2004 and are still climbing, the World Meteorological Organization said Tuesday.

“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 leveling off,” said Michel Jarraud, secretary-general of the U.N. climate and weather agency.

The agency made no reference to global warming, which many scientists have blamed on the heat-trapping greenhouse gases created in the burning of fossil fuels. According to NASA, 2005 had the highest annual average surface temperature worldwide since instrument recordings began in the late 1800s.

But Leonard Barrie, chief of atmospheric research at WMO, said the greenhouse gases clearly posed a problem.

“Given that the lifetime of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is 50 to 200 years depending on how you calculate it … it doesn’t take a nuclear scientist to state that we’re going to have this problem for a long time,” he told reporters at U.N. offices in Geneva.

“If we stop now CO2 emissions to the atmosphere, it would take 50 to 100 years before we were starting to see approaches to preindustrial levels.”

WMO said it based its findings for its first “Greenhouse Gas Bulletin” on readings from 44 countries that were collected in Japan.

“Globally averaged concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide in the planet’s atmosphere reached their highest ever recorded levels in 2004,” WMO said.

The agency said carbon dioxide was nearly half a percent higher in 2004 than the year before. Nitrous oxide has been rising steadily since 1988. Methane has risen the most dramatically over the past two centuries, but its growth has been slowing, WMO said.

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News Service: Associated Press

URL: http://www.cnn.com/2006/TECH/science/03/14/greenhouse.gasses.ap/index.html