CO2 lev­els in at­mos­phere now at their high­est in 800,000 years

Irish Independent - - News - Paul Melia En­vi­ron­ment Ed­i­tor

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

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