Scientists call for action to tackle CO2 levels

Coal power station and wind turbines The last time CO2 was regularly above 400ppm was three to five million years ago

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Scientists are calling on world leaders to take action on climate change after carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere broke through a symbolic threshold.

Daily CO2 readings at a US government agency lab on Hawaii have topped 400 parts per million for the first time.

Sir Brian Hoskins, the head of climate change at the UK-based Royal Society, said the figure should "jolt governments into action".

China and the US have made a commitment to co-operate on clean technology.

But BBC environment analyst Roger Harrabin said the EU was backing off the issue, and cheap fossil fuels looked attractive to industries.

The laboratory, which sits on the Mauna Loa volcano, feeds its numbers into a continuous record of the concentration of the gas stretching back to 1958.

'Sense of urgency'

Carbon dioxide is regarded as the most important of the manmade greenhouse gases blamed for raising the temperature on the planet over recent decades.

Human sources come principally from the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas.

Ministers in the UK have claimed global leadership in reducing CO2 emissions and urged other nations to follow suit.

Sir Brian John Hoskins Sir Brian Hoskins said a greater sense of urgency was needed

But the official Climate Change Committee (CCC) last month said that Britain's total contribution towards heating the climate had increased, because the UK is importing goods that produce CO2 in other countries.

The last time CO2 was regularly above 400ppm was three to five million years ago - before modern humans existed.

Scientists say the climate back then was also considerably warmer than it is today.

Professor Sir Brian Hoskins, director of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College London, said a greater sense of urgency about tackling climate change was needed.

"Before we started influencing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, over the last million years it went between about 180 and 280 parts per million," he said.

"Now, since the Industrial Revolution and more in the last 50 years, we've taken that level up by more than 40% to a level of 400 and that hasn't been seen on this planet for probably four million years.

"But around the world, there are things happening, it's not all doom and gloom," he added.

"China is doing a lot. Its latest five year plan makes really great strides."

China's plan for 2011-2015 includes reversing the damage done by 30 years of growth and increasing the use of renewable energy.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    To be honest people should have dealt with rising CO2 levels sooner but they haven't. Car companies need to develop more efficient car technology at affordable prices. For example the Peugeot Ion (electric car) is well over £30,000 and isn't well equipped or big either. you could easily get a second hand range rover for half the price. Where's the money-saving incentive in that?

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.


    Does this graph show anything but a positive trend?

    There's not really any point arguing with you because your scientific logic is flawed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    The world's population is doubling every 40 years and this is having all sorts of effects including, of course, increased CO2 emissions.

    The fashionable obsession with this one factor is leading us to ignore the root cause and all its other effects. Even if we could reduce our CO2 emissions to zero we are still over-using resources at an ever-increasing rate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    Global warming, global dimming, Co2, pollution, unsustainable populations, short-sighted farming and fishing practices et al.

    An holistic approach is needed globally. Oh, and bloody well stop chopping down irreplaceable rain forests teaming with life and potential future medicines....

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    Please remember that USA, EU and China are the biggest CO2 producer (60% UN estimate) and USA did not sign Kyoto treatory to cut down CO2 emission - it is unfair to put pressure on developing countries to CO2 emission without implementing solid rules on 3 biggest producer

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    Dear Kingfisherphil,
    See post number 34 on an IMF report about fossil fuel subsidies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    The REAL scientists are finding solutions to mankind's needs.

    The PSEUDO scientists with their B-Techs (after retake) are subsidised by us to fly around Rio bleating the same message. Of course they all agree. And their company car's fuel and road tax are subsidised by grant.

    They aren't inventing or discovering anything but giving Osborne his excuses to keep raising tax.

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    It makes me laugh as the believers attack the deniers and yet it makes no difference, we not doing anything about CO2 levels at all.

    Imo, nothing will change until oil/petrol becomes too expensive for the common man.

    Btw, While China build a coal power station every 2 weeks, there is no point worrying about Britain's CO2 output.

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.


    Our lives haven't been affected one bit by this alleged 'change' in weather conditions, which has apparently been occurring over 30 years or so (average global temperatures haven't risen since 1998). The only thing that has changed because of this faux-science is taxation. Taxation on the cars you use, taxation on petrol prices, and god-awful wind farms.

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    The inconvenient truth is that CO2 is not the real issue. Population growth, excess consumption, waste and hundreds of other factors are of greater consequence. Breathing alone accounts for considerable quantities of CO2 production. Problems such as cutting down forests, buying cheap disposable clothes / goods and throwing away over 1/3rd of our food should tackled before worrying about CO2!

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    For all the people saying warming has stalled in the last 10 to 15 years, YOU ARE WRONG. NASA science reports: "Of the nine hottest years on record, eight have come since the year 2000" That's also on top of an unprecedented and never before seen increase in global temperatures.

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    When did global warming become climate change? And where is the Mediterranean climate my primary school teachers were banging on about that would have engulfed our shores by now??

    Looks like a fairly standard May afternoon outside my window...

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    In the next 200 years Al Queda and North Korea will have acquired nuclear arsenals and blown us all to kingdom come anyway. We may as well just enjoy ourselves while we can and forget worrying about CO2 levels.

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    Time to take all the subsidies away from so called green initiatives such as solar panels, electric cars and wind farms, they are causing a distortion and much waste in their own right. All these seat warming, hand wringing bureaucrats jetting it around the world to conferences and the so called charities, like RSPB etc are taking the mickey bliss!

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    Great that so many debunk science, I mean what do they know that a good conspiracy theory or a tabloid newspaper cant answer. Is climate change real, yes, is mankind a considerable contributor to this event, yes, will mankind do anything, no - not until it personally effects those in control of our resources and our economy. Biggest potential for future economic growth - green energy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    46.FR_Andrew ,
    I wouldn't know, since there has never been a true free market. There has always been a government to give one company or another some sort of monopoly or land acquisition privilege, or pollution indulgence.
    In a free market a company could only have a monopoly if it's product/service was much better and cheaper than the competition. We don't see many free-market monopolies today.

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    No such thing as humans influencing climate change. It is the earths natural cycle.

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    Sue Doughcoup
    Just now

    .... and far too stupid to do anything about it now.
    There speaks an excellent example of said stupidity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    Fossil fuels were laid down over billions of years - we want to return all that carbon to the atmosphere in a couple of centuries. How can that not be damaging?

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    27 BMT-An Alternative View - Err, no. We had 5,000,000 years of CO2 concentration being lower than it is now. We've managed to get it back up to that level in less than 200 years. Do you see why that might be a problem?


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