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

Related Stories

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.


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 315.

    Majority of deaths in UK result in cremation which is stupid, last action on earth is to create polution, poof up in smoke & big use of energy

    Whynot recycle humans, fats can make bio-fuels & soap, & bones are a good natural fertilizor, this would be necessary reality of deep space travel
    Just because Germans did it involuntary doesnt mean we should reject it, they also drove BMWs & ate food

  • rate this

    Comment number 314.

    294"I study climatology... (as well as methane, CFCs, water vapour etc). It's not complicated, such particles..."

    I think you need to go back to chemistry 101.They're not particles, they're gases, individual molecules.They cause warming by reflecting earth's radiated heat back to the surface instead of allowing it to escape into space. Is this what climatologists are coming to?

  • rate this

    Comment number 313.

    "Helping others in a way that undermines your own bloodlines existance is crazy & suicidal & stupid"

    One has to question, with an attitude like that, the value of maintaining that bloodline's existance.

    I'm not so selfish as to assume mine holds more value than that of one in e.g. Ethiopia.

    Perhaps, I'm odd, but I took a decision not to procreate. My bloodline stops with me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 312.

    Latest accredited data shows there has been no warming for 17 years, in fact a slight fall, yet CO2 continues to rise. Comparing the statistics for CO2 and temperature shows CO2 rises come years AFTER rises in temperature. Plants recycle CO2 by inspiration of CO2 and expiration of O2. Levels have always changed as fossil records show and current levels are way below historical norms. No problem.

  • rate this

    Comment number 311.

    In 100 years time, people will talk about this and laugh and laugh. Of course, the way population is going, it will be standing room only.

  • rate this

    Comment number 310.

    221.Drunken Hobo
    196 BLACK_PEARL - Where did you come up with this "Only 4% is from fossil fuel" idea? Where did the other 96% appear from?
    Read lots of stuff but this might do
    add up the C02 in this from Natural sources
    I get 770GT to human 29.4Gt = tad under 4%

  • rate this

    Comment number 309.

    We, the People, are sick and tired of money grabbing banksters, politicians and fraudster government-funded gravy train "scientists".

    The Royal Society and Bad Sir Brian Hoskins are corrupting science for political and monetary gain. FACT: The last 17 years has seen rising CO2 but NO rise in global temperatures. Rising CO2 may line the pockets of alarmists but has negligible impact on climate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 308.

    When the eruption occurred over Iceland and thousands of flights were grounded, there was a report that concluded that there was a net decrease in CO2 emissions for this period. Volcanoes have always been around and if anything they are less active overall. Therefore the CO2 is from other sources. We also have to worry about CH4 and NO2 in less quantities but more radioactive forcing than CO2.

  • rate this

    Comment number 307.

    Come on now, lead by example :-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 306.

    283. Neil Smith

    So Ice compression causes the CO2 levels to be misreported at a particular time while not affecting the temperature proxy eh - where did you get that one from ? What the record does not show is CO2 increase leading temperature increases, rather embarrassing isn't it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 305.

    Effective action - stop breathing!

  • rate this

    Comment number 304.

    Just now
    229. spam
    I've never before seen climate change used as an excuse for such a lack of compassion or humanity.

    At the end of the day, if you help others improve their life then they directly compete for the same resources our own familys & people need.

    Helping others in a way that undermines your own bloodlines existance is crazy & suicidal & stupid

  • rate this

    Comment number 303.

    "The last time CO2 was regularly above 400ppm was three to five million years ago"

    ... and the world didn't end.

    And they didn't have alarmist rent-seekers like the Grantham Institute back then.

    PS - anyone seen that scary Global Warming in the last 15+ years?

    Thought not - just lots of subsidised wind farms and extra taxes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 302.

    278"Why would we use food resources for fuel when we have Solar?"

    Because cars can burn alcohol added to gasoline. The ridiculous solar cell powered airplane notwithstanding, solar power is a huge waste of money. The actual payback on investment in solar power when you do the accounting correctly is...never. The money would be far better spent elsewhere.

  • rate this

    Comment number 301.

    No doubt mankind will have found a planet to colonise before we have any real problems. So chill out cook up a lentil curry and watch the cup final.

  • rate this

    Comment number 300.

    The answer to the questions raised in this (and similar debates) really is very, very simple. Just place far greater emphasis on understanding Scientific Method and its history and its philosophy in our schools. A bonus would be a significant reduction of absolute guff spouted on internet comments pages, by opinionated buffoons who are 'experts' by virtue of no more than their towering ignorance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 299.

    BBC Propaganda again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 298.

    Stop cutting down of the forests which convert CO2 into O2

  • rate this

    Comment number 297.

    steve1955 through ice cores, idiot

    as for global warming, obviously no government actually cares especially our own who said they would increase renewable energy in this country but what a lie it was just like them saying they were not going to touch the NHS.

  • rate this

    Comment number 296.

    The fact is the planet is grossly over populated, therefore steps need to be taken to slow this growth down worldwide. Contraceptives need to be available and encouraged for all across the world if we are to prevent the suffering of all species. We are greedy, self destructive and there are too many of us!


Page 20 of 35


More Science & Environment stories



Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.