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CO2 pollution levels at annual record high - UN

Published:Wednesday | September 10, 2014 | 12:00 AM
This file photo shows a poor-air-quality sign posted over a highway in Salt Lake City.

GENEVA (AP): Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere reached a record high in 2013 as increasing levels of man-made pollution transform the planet, the United Nations weather agency said yesterday.

As the heat-trapping gas blamed for the largest share of global warming, carbon dioxide rose to global concentrations of 396 parts per million last year, the biggest year-to-year change in three decades, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) said in an annual report.

That's an increase of 2.9 ppm from the previous year and is 42 per cent higher than before the Industrial Age, when levels were about 280 parts per million.

Based on the current rate, the world's carbon dioxide pollution level is expected to cross the 400 ppm threshold by 2016, said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud. That is way beyond the 350 ppm that some scientists and environmental groups promote as a safe level and which was last seen in 1987.

Greenhouse gas emissions are building up so fast that top climate scientists are becoming increasingly skeptical that countries across the globe will meet the goal they set at the 2009 Copenhagen climate summit of limiting global warming to about another 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) above current levels.

More increases ahead

In a draft report last month, the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said it is looking more likely that the world will shoot past that point and, by mid-century, temperatures will increase by about another 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) compared to temperatures from 1986 to 2005. And by the end of the century that scenario will bring temperatures about 6.7 degrees warmer (3.7 degrees Celsius), it said.

"We know without any doubt that our climate is changing and our weather is becoming more extreme due to human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels," Jarraud said. "Time is not on our side, for sure."

To address the challenge, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has invited heads of state and other leaders to a September 23 climate change summit in New York on the sidelines of the annual UN General Assembly. President Barack Obama has said he will attend to help spur new commitments from governments, industry and civil groups for reducing greenhouse gas emissions ahead of next year's global climate talks in Paris.