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 175.

    Great. I am going to build a swimming pool in my back garden as soon as the climate changes .

  • rate this

    Comment number 174.

    UKIP won't stand for these tree huggers. Farage for PM.

  • rate this

    Comment number 173.

    164.Global Yawning
    "Stop crying about trees and let nature sort it out. It's coped pretty well for 4.5 billion years"

    Nature will sort it out but until until just almost all plants and wildlife are wiped out and Humans become extinct. It won't happen overnight - probably over a few thousand years - but it will be most unpleasant for those Humans surviving whilst all this is happening.

  • rate this

    Comment number 172.

    Wake up people.

    And then give some thought as to how you will keep your families warm and fed in years to come.

  • rate this

    Comment number 171.

    @153 - Good points regarding statistics. Learning to understand how numbers are used to manipulate us is essential to being issues educated. However, name calling rarely puts your audience into a frame of mind to hear your, very relevant in this case, message. A different delivery may be heard better.

  • rate this

    Comment number 170.

    Someone or something is teraforming this planet under our noses. I say we wait a while. We sit here and wait. Soon whatever entities have beein guiding human history must show themselves. They breath CO2 like trees so don't expect them to be fast movers but stealthy? Yes, they are stealthy. Now watch and wait?

  • rate this

    Comment number 169.

    When people in our frigid little island stop heading south for sun and warmth in their holidays then i will admit we may have a overheating problem , till then im afraid our part of the global warming CO2 blanket is exceedingley holey and threadbare - especially in winter when we need all the warming we can get to stop our OAPs freezing to death because they cannot afford the green power subsidy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 168.

    CO2 is a greenhouse gas, but its effect on global warming is minor compared to methane. Animal (and human) posteriors emit more global warming gas than modern factories. The massive release of undersea Methane Hydrates caused by volcanic activity caused the Permian extinction event, where over 90% of all creatures died, a greater loss than the dinosaur asteroid impact.

  • rate this

    Comment number 167.

    119 Neil Smith In 20th Century global temp rose by 0.7deg (0.4deg 1980-2000), since 1999 it has plateaued.
    130 Ruminations High concs of CO2 will cause warming but there is no evidence 0.04% will. Please provide your evidence that it will, that is not based on computer models or "everyone says so"

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.

    Cause and effect: the cause is overpopulation, one of the effects is increased CO2.

    However overpopulation is leading to many, many other effects including lack of fresh water, famine, over-fishing and deforestation. For a sustainable future we need to start by acknowledging the root cause and progress to thinking about how to address it directly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 165.

    I may be wrong and I'm sure the "head in the sand" people will try to correct me but don't even the American's now accept global warming as a fact?. The only debate now is if it's natural or manmade.

    And whoever said global warming isn't happening because we had three consecutive cold months really needs to brush up on global warming as they just made themselves look stupid.

  • rate this

    Comment number 164.

    If the tree huggers a right we will create an ever increasing, uninhabitable environment. We won't all die off over night, but the weak will go first, and so on until the balance is restored.

    Problem solved.

    Stop crying about trees and let nature sort it out. It's coped pretty well for 4.5 billion years.

  • rate this

    Comment number 163.

    "You have been warned"

    No we haven't. We've been hit by spittle spraying from the grotesque mouth of a gibberish clown.

    "Warned". Of what, exactly? That we are going to lose our jobs? That our salaries are worth nothing because of sovereign debt? That our children will work for the dole?

    Let me give you a warning: government scientists are going to have to work for a living, and soon.

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    Humans are fundamentally too selfish to make changes. 7 billion beings CANNOT be trusted to sort this out and it doesnt take very many of them to make things a lot worse. 99% of the global pop. are carrying on as if this is not happening and a small % pay lip service if forced. People are also breeding at an alarming rate and that's not stopping. If the science is correct our days are numbered.

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.

    NO,,,dont do ANYTHING!!! Mankind is amazingly intelligent,killing the planet and making mankind extinct is obviously the best way for us to go,no-one in the right mind would deliberately kill ourselves off without doing anything about it. Especially as we dont actually need to burn ANY CO2,s anymore!

  • rate this

    Comment number 160.

    I'm still buying a 4.4L V8 X5 next month because it's the car I want and my pollution is nothing compared to power stations, aeroplanes etc. Plus it goes like stink lol! (sorry planet, I'll be long gone before the climate implodes anyway! hehe)

  • rate this

    Comment number 159.

    Many people including scientists and political leaders are starting to realise that they have at the very least overreacted about climate change. The science on closer examination is proving to be a lot less "settled" than was thought even 5 years ago.

    In fact Influential people everywhere are rowing back from climate change alarmism to the extent that it is starting to look unfashionable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    4 Minutes ago
    It's too late. The World's Governments will never change in time.

    Deserving of a medal for pure muppetry, fact is it is NOT governments responsibility, it is YOUR responsibility, YOU choose to buy planet/life threatening/damaging products & lifestyles.

    We are in the biggest man made bubble ever, technology & wealth are NO insurance to its outcome

  • rate this

    Comment number 157.

    The key word in this article is "symbolic"... A measured level of CO2 of 400 ppm is of no scientific consequence but is of great scaremongering, political lobbying and agenda advancing value... The next threshold is 500 ppm which, based on the trend, will occur in 2057 - get your pencils sharpened!

  • rate this

    Comment number 156.

    Look at the data. The increase since 1958 is remarkably smooth (with the annual seasonal modulation). How has our changing global economy managed to produce such a smooth increase?


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