Car­bon diox­ide hits record lev­els in at­mos­phere

UN re­port finds last time Earth ex­pe­ri­enced sim­i­lar con­cen­tra­tion rates was three to five mil­lion years ago

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The con­cen­tra­tion of car­bon diox­ide (CO2) in the at­mos­phere has hit a new high, the UN said yes­ter­day, warn­ing that dras­tic ac­tion is needed to achieve tar­gets set by the Paris cli­mate agree­ment.

“Con­cen­tra­tions of car­bon diox­ide in the at­mos­phere surged at a record­break­ing speed in 2016,” the World Me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal Or­gan­i­sa­tion said.

“Glob­ally av­er­aged con­cen­tra­tions of CO2 reached 403.3 parts per mil­lion in 2016, up from 400.00 ppm in 2015 be­cause of a com­bi­na­tion of hu­man ac­tiv­i­ties and a strong El Nino event,” it said.

The re­port also said that the last time Earth ex­pe­ri­enced sim­i­lar CO2 con­cen­tra­tion rates was three to five mil­lion years ago, when the sea level was up to 20 me­tres higher than now.

The con­cen­tra­tion of car­bon diox­ide (CO2) in the at­mos­phere has hit a new high, the UN said yes­ter­day, warn­ing that dras­tic ac­tion is needed to achieve tar­gets set by the Paris cli­mate agree­ment.

“Con­cen­tra­tions of car­bon diox­ide in the at­mos­phere surged at a record-break­ing speed in 2016 to the high­est level in 800,000 years,” the World Me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal Or­gan­i­sa­tion said.

“Glob­ally av­er­aged con­cen­tra­tions of CO2 reached 403.3 parts per mil­lion in 2016, up from 400.00 ppm in 2015 be­cause of a com­bi­na­tion of hu­man ac­tiv­i­ties and a strong El Nino event,” it said.

The Green­house Gas Bul­letin, the UN weather agency’s an­nual flag­ship re­port, tracks the con­tent of dan­ger­ous gasses in the at­mos­phere in the post-in­dus­trial era (since 1750).

Re­searchers have “re­li­able, di­rect mea­sure­ments” of C02 con­cen­tra­tions rates go­ing back 800,000 years us­ing air bub­bles pre­served in ice in places like Greenland and Antarc­tica, the head of WMO’s at­mo­spheric en­vi­ron­ment re­search di­vi­sion, Ok­sana Tarasova, told re­porters in Geneva.

But by study­ing fos­silised ma­te­rial the WMO also has rough es­ti­mates go­ing back even fur­ther. Us­ing those mea­sures, the re­port found that the last time Earth ex­pe­ri­enced sim­i­lar CO2 con­cen­tra­tion rates to to­day was three to five mil­lion years ago, when the sea level was up to 20 me­tres (66 feet) higher than now and the planet was 2-3 de­grees Cel­sius warmer.

There is hope

WMO chief Pet­teri Taalas told re­porters that “there is hope” to re­verse the wor­ry­ing con­cen­tra­tion rates but un­der­scored that the time to act was now.

“With­out rapid cuts in CO2 and other green­house gas 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,” Taalas said in a state­ment.

The his­toric agree­ment ap­proved by 196 coun­tries two years ago is fac­ing re­newed pres­sure fol­low­ing US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s de­ci­sion to quit the ac­cord.

But na­tions are set to press on with the task of im­ple­ment­ing it at cli­mate talks in Bonn next week.

AFP

With­out rapid cuts in CO2 and other green­house gas emis­sions, tem­per­a­tures will soar to dan­ger­ous lev­els by the end of this cen­tury.

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