Car­bon diox­ide lev­els grew at record pace in 2016

The Irish Times - - World News - KEVIN O’SULLIVAN En­vi­ron­ment & Science Ed­i­tor

The con­cen­tra­tion of CO2, which causes global warm­ing, in the Earth’s at­mos­phere in­creased at a record rate last year to reach a level not seen for more than three mil­lion years, the World Me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal Or­gan­i­sa­tion (WMO) has re­ported.

This oc­curred due to the com­bi­na­tion of hu­man ac­tiv­ity and an El Niño cli­mate ef­fect in the south­ern hemi­sphere as­so­ci­ated with warmer temperatures dur­ing 2016, ac­cord­ing to the UN body.

Their lat­est re­port has raised alarm among sci­en­tists, who warned that the Paris Ac­cord on re­duc­ing green­house gases (GHGs) is likely to be in­suf­fi­cient to curb tem­per­a­ture in­creases due to global warm­ing.

It has prompted calls for sig­na­tory coun­tries to con­sider more dras­tic emis­sions re­duc­tions at up­com­ing cli­mate ne­go­ti­a­tions in Bonn dur­ing Novem­ber.

“Glob­ally av­er­aged con­cen­tra­tions of CO2 reached 403.3 parts per mil­lion (ppm) in 2016, up from 400.00 ppm in 2015 be­cause of a com­bi­na­tion of hu­man ac­tiv­i­ties and a strong El Niño event,” ac­cord­ing to the GHG Bulletin, the UN weather agency’s an­nual re­port.

This ac­cel­er­a­tion oc­curred de­spite a slow­down – and per­haps even a plateau­ing – of emis­sions be­cause El Niño in­ten­si­fied droughts and weak­ened the abil­ity of veg­e­ta­tion to ab­sorb CO2. As the planet warms, El Niños are ex­pected to be­come more fre­quent.

The in­crease of 3.3 parts per mil­lion (ppm) is con­sid­er­ably higher than both the 2.3 ppm rise of the pre­vi­ous 12 months and the av­er­age an­nual in­crease over the past decade of 2.08 ppm. It is also well above the pre­vi­ous big El Niño year of 1998, when the rise was 2.7 ppm.

The study, which uses mon­i­tor­ing ships, air­craft and on land sta­tions to track emis­sions, found CO2 in the at­mos­phere is now in­creas­ing 100 times faster than at the end of the last Ice Age due to pop­u­la­tion growth, agri­cul­ture, de­for­esta­tion and in­dus­tri­al­i­sa­tion.

“With­out rapid cuts in CO2 and other GHG emis­sions, we will be head­ing for dan­ger­ous tem­per­a­ture in­creases by the end of this cen­tury, well above the tar­get set by the Paris cli­mate change agree­ment,” WMO chief Pet­teri Taalas said.

The mo­men­tum from the Paris ac­cord of 2015 is fal­ter­ing due to the fail­ure of gov­ern­ments to live up to their prom­ises. In a re­port to be re­leased to­day, UN En­vi­ron­ment will show the gap be­tween in­ter­na­tional goals and do­mes­tic com­mit­ments leaves the world on course for warm­ing well beyond the 2 de­gree tar­get and prob­a­bly beyond 3 de­grees. In­ter­na­tional ef­forts to act have also been weak­ened by US pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s de­ci­sion to quit the ac­cord.

Pro­fes­sor of car­bon man­age­ment at the Univer­sity of Ed­in­burgh Dave Reay 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 was still time to steer th­ese emis­sions down, he added, “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”. – Ad­di­tional re­port­ing: Guardian

‘‘ This should set alarm bells ring­ing in the cor­ri­dors of power

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