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 95.

    We are still technically in an ice age. There is ice at both poles. For about 80% of the earths existence it has been considerably hotter than it is now so we are in a statistically cooler period. Instead of beating ourselves up about how we might have affected the climate why don't we focus on how we are going to cope when the climate returns to what it normally has been, hotter and more humid?

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    82. Parrot
    but of course suggesting that this problem be addressed is a complete no no.
    Not really, both China and India (countries #1 and 2 by pop) have implemented or are implementing policies to limit population growth. I would expect China's population to fall below 1bn in a couple of generations, owing to their one child policy and a cultural preference for boys.

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    Ask Politicians, and Royalty and those who attend the house of lords how much their congestion charge is. They don't pay it. Fact. However, this propaganda will create work for the eco green lot I suppose.

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    Dear Barneyb69,
    See post 34 about an IMF report on fossil fuel subsidies:

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    The easiest and most profitable options are always the barriers to progress. If you cost everything on it lowest denominator and fail to price the value of the environment and climate you have a blind mans perspective of reality. The economy is meaningless if you cant function due to climate change decimating infrastructure, levelling crops or rendering existing cities uninhabitable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    While world population continues to grow exponentially, it doesn’t matter two hoots how many windmills are installed on the roofs of Islington: the deprived 3rd world billions will hack down every last tree and burn every nugget of coal.

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    I think a significant ammount of carbon dioxide is produced by global warming confrences and parliaments.

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    There won't be any change until the oil and all other related commerce decide to do so.

    Probably when they have bought into the next money spinner.

    The less people use the more the price rises.

    Because profits are calculated and premiums paid annually they don't care what happens in the next five years let alone the next fifty.

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    So much misinformation. The government keep whacking us with 'green' taxes. Is that hat is going to pay for the new runways at Heathror/Thames Airport. We are being conned and fleeced!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    It is still the case that I have not seen any credible, statistically significant data that demonstrate a causal connection between human activity and global warming. Our records just do not cover a long enough trend period.
    Furthermore, with news this week that exposure to sunshine is not the evil it has been painted by 'experts', I take boffins' views with a big dose of scepticism.

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    It is NOT about countrys poluting, it is about PEOPLE poluting via products/produce they purchase.
    Basically, most people in west are doing a dump on their childrens children, the WORST type of child abuse, ensuring the future is more dangerous & less healthy.

    FACT is, world population is way over sustainable levels & is ONLY sustained due to SYNTHETIC technologys, which are also destructive

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    I've seen reference to the false meme that global temperatures haven't risen since 1998. This is just plain wrong, unless all of the commonly cited datasets are wrong. True, surface warming has slowed (not stopped), but overall warming has continued unabated as shown by recent research on ocean heat content and on correcting for temporary influences on temperature.

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    The UK produced less than 2% of the worlds carbon emissions (and I'm watching two TV's as we speak)!!

    Until that figure is up around the 10% mark, I am going to do absolutely nothing at all about it :o)

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

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

    So how can it be out fault?

    Of course the real problem is that there are about 2 billion more people on the planet than it can realistically support, but of course suggesting that this problem be addressed is a complete no no.

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    yay, we are brilliant!
    who would have thought we could plough on like this when we have had warnings about pollution for as long as I can remember.
    but no the people of this world want stuff and by jove they shall have it at any cost.
    as an Individual I try to keep my impact as low as possible but others just deny that this has any longterm impact.

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    As an energy specialist who help industries and building owners achieve energy efficiency and thereby reducing emission in one way or another, I am shocked to know the unprecedented and alarming level of CO2 in our atmosphere. I would expect all the countries including EU to come forward and be more responsible to bring down the CO2 level and save our earth for our future generation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    The reason the climate change isn't noticeable is because global dimming from particulate matter given off by countless factories, power plants and jet/car engines is counteracting the surface warming. This is a false comfort as it means things are probably gonna fall up a sudden steep cliff climatewise once peak oil ends the car age.

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.


    Don't you think it's about time?
    Dragging the rest of the world down with them.
    You dont read much
    USA CO2 out put has dropped 30% with the use of Shale gas
    Even tho they didn't sign up to Kyoto they achieved & passed the targets which I believe no other participating country has.
    Good eh
    Well done USA

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    Why do articles like this always show a wind-turbine in the background?
    Wind Turbines will hardly recover the CO2 needed to manufacture, install, and maintain it over the lifetime of the turbine. Currently our only technology that might help reduce CO2 would be more nuclear reactors and more electric vehicles.

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    More scaremongering designed to further the cause of impoverishing the UK and Europe. The people behind all this are shady at best or plain Evil at worst.


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