CO2 levels in atmosphere now at their highest in 800,000 years
CONCENTRATIONS of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are increasing at record-breaking speed to reach their highest level in 800,000 years.
The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) has warned that abrupt changes in the atmosphere seen over the last 70 years are “without precedent”, and that concentrations have reached 403 parts per million, largely due to human activity.
Concentrations of CO2 are now 145pc of levels which existed in the 1750s, the Greenhouse Gas Bulletin says.
Rapidly increasing levels have the potential to initiate unprecedented changes in climate systems, leading to “severe ecological and economic disruptions”, it added.
Population growth, intensified agricultural practices, industrialisation and burning fossil fuels have resulted in average global temperatures increases of almost 1C in the last century.
Some of the warmest years on record have been in this century, and climate change is linked to more extreme weather events and could result in more severe hurricanes such as Ophelia, which struck in recent weeks.
“Without rapid cuts in CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions, we will be heading for dangerous temperature increases by the end of this century,” said WMO secretary-general Petteri Taalas. “Future generations will inherit a much more inhospitable planet.”
“CO2 remains in the atmosphere for hundreds of years and in the oceans for even longer. There is currently no magic wand to remove this CO2 from the atmosphere.”
The last time the Earth experienced a comparable concentration of CO2 was more than three million years ago, when temperatures were up to 3C warmer and sea levels were up to 20 metres higher than today.
Next week, an Emissions Gap Report by UN Environment will set out the level of reductions needed to keep global temperatures to no more than a 2C rise by 2050, a key pledge under the Paris Climate Agreement.
“The numbers don’t lie. We are still emitting far too much and this needs to be reversed... We have many of the solutions already to address this challenge. What we need now is global political will and a new sense of urgency,” said Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment.
UN climate change negotiations will be held from November 7 in Bonn, Germany.
A view of the polluted skyline in Paris, where a partial driving ban has been imposed in the past to reduce harmful smog