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 135.

    Odd that the article isn't mentioning that the temperatures of the last decade has been leading a lot of scientists to start re-evaluating the impact co2 has on temperatures, especially once you start to take into account the new data the recent volcanic eruptions gave us about the impact of cloud cover

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    74.Anna Next
    There's not really any point arguing with you because your scientific logic is flawed
    Only said 1850 was a very Cold year to start comparisons from thats all no need for personel attack.
    Look at temp graphs further back they fluctuate linked to warm ocean currents & Solar output only
    Warm oceans release C02
    0.0119% Co2 vol inc.since 1850 Man = 4%= 0.000476%

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.

    In other articles, it seems that the persistent COLD weather is killing all the wildlife and triggering an environmental crisis. All this global warming hype is nothing but yet another government scam. Money should be invested in LTFRs, a safe nuclear reactor design, rather than ugly windfarms and solar arrays

  • rate this

    Comment number 132.

    Excessive human global population is the real culprit.

    If the population level was low, then Man probably wouldn't cause so many environmental problems.

  • rate this

    Comment number 131.

    107 Gordon
    "Ah ridicule, the last bastion of the hard of thinking."

    Right, but calling someone "hard of thinking" is a mature and inteligent argument?
    If someone says something so mind-boggling foolish as "But it's fine outside my window" in an argument about *global* warming then they should expect ridicule. And possibly to have fruit thrown at them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 130.

    106 solubility..

    Apart from suspect computer models, there is no evidence that these concentrations of CO2 increases global temperature..


    You`re displaying a quite remarkable ignorance of history and physics..

  • rate this

    Comment number 129.

    The writing is on the wall, and has been for some time. Unless we do something now, the environment will pay us back with our own coin and with compound interest. The current situation is unsustainable. We must stop abusing energy. You have been warned

  • rate this

    Comment number 128.

    Simple, just remove taxpayer funding from scientists who want people to live on lentils in a wigwam.
    Human progress has only happened through the availability of cheap energy for the masses. Removal of cheap energy will enable the minority wealthy to rule us as they did prior to the 20th century.

  • rate this

    Comment number 127.

    Until Scientists/Governments admit population is out of controp then nothing will be done. Uk has not met any targets yet. With many thousands of houses going up every month let alone each year, which not only cause floods but encourage many peoples belief that they can have huge families.Why are ALL governments in power such cowards at dealing with this. 2 kids max, cut benefits,tax 3 or more

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    The level of procrastination we see in some people would be funny if the problem wasn't so serious.
    Global warming is proven. Scientific, peer reviewed, measurements have proven the laws of physics which are causing it.
    Climate Change (more accurately climate chaos) - is occuring now across the globe.
    Confussion and corporate myopia is driven by those with vested interests.

  • rate this

    Comment number 125.

    Surely there is an easy solution. Firstly stop cutting down the rain forests of the world, secondly plant more trees and thirdly and more importantly stop breathing! What are the chances this government could tax our CO2 output based on our breathing? Fitness fanatics watch out lol

  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    Here they go again the Green brigade with their non fact based scare mongering. Chill out have a Lentil curry and a glass of organic Wine and leave the running of the world to the grown ups.

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    Another nonsense non story by the eco-warrier BBC.

  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    work, play, shop, local, saves you money and delivers a better life for you and those around you. "

    What a ridiculous generalisation - the "better life" surely depends very much on precisely where you live. There are very many places where doing what you advocate would lead to a life of depression and misery. Still, that's the aim of the environmental lobby - make us miserable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 121.

    It is well known that CO2 has a pronounced effect on temperatures. The situation is now dire. The USA for example will reach absolute zero by the end of the 21st century if CO2 keeps rising at the current rate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 120.

    It's too late. The World's Governments will never change in time.
    What will be will be.

    We could try to stop the population of this country from expanding further. That will make it easier to cope with anything that does happen. It will also stop the Quality of Life getting worse for those of us who don't have a second home in the Cotswolds.

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    @106. solubility "US and UK Met Office Data shows global temperatures have remained static"

    This is entirely WRONG, US and UK data show since 2000 we've had 8 out of 9 hottest global temperatures on record. The MET office ACTUALLY said the warming trend since 1850 would continue. Not that you care about facts or real measurements.

    MET Office

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    Complete waste of time and money, CO2 doesn't drive temperatures. Its all about taxation and control and the sooner people wake up to this scam the better off we all will be

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.

    If the human race wiped itself out, hey ho, we would just reap what we have sowed, but we do not have the right to take other species with us, or destroy their planet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    This year we have had the coldest March, the coldest April and we are on our way to have the coldest May for ages.
    Global warming, uh?


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