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 655.

    Remember the glorious "hockey stick graph"? Well for those that don't know, it doesn't matter what data you stick into the algorithm, you still get a hockey stick. Stick the numbers from a phone directory into the algorithm and you get a hockey stick. In other words the algorithm will predict a rise in temperature REGARDLESS OF THE DATA INPUT. To get research money you need to create a panic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 654.

    No. 634. Damian
    What about Venus where the surface temperature is 467 °C and 97% of its atmosphere is CO2? That's pretty strong evidence for the existence of a greenhouse effect. I haven't seen any plausible arguments by climate change deniers to explain this one fact.

  • rate this

    Comment number 653.

    I'm more interested in how we feed and hydrate an island of 80 or 90 million in a world 5 -10 degrees centigrade hotter than it is now. The issue of climate change being real or not is dead and gone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 652.

    People should wake up to the effect fossil fuels have on the atmosphere. Everyone understood how the hole in the ozone layer because it could be seen. Stopping CFC use was easy to implement - it didn't take much sacrifice for the people to change their lifestyles. However, cutting carbon is another matter as people have to cut their lifestyles to the point it spoils their hedonistic pleasures.

  • rate this

    Comment number 651.

    What has 400ppm got to do with anything? if we stop fossil fuel emissions on the whole planet, plant life and oceans give off far more Co2 than humans. Didn't hurt the dinosaurs! (meteorite did!)

    There is a UK Court case to force IPCC scientists in the UK to release information on how they arrive at these figures under the mandatory UN 'terms and conditions' on this taxpayer funded research!

  • rate this

    Comment number 650.

    Reading the comments of Climate Change Deniers has become the worst part of AGW escalation. Most of the misdirection in their "commentaries" is so self-evident I wonder how they get away with it. Ah, yes, of course... the HYS Team is answerable to no-one, interpret the "guidelines" as they please and are mostly CCDs themselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 649.

    @625.Mike Maloney
    Cos' we were told CO2 would kake summers hotter and dryer and winters warmer an wetter...

    thats a very broad average, altering the basic parameters of climate can result in complex & localised weather changes. weather is mainly created by high temp/pressure moving to low temp/pressure regions, if you change these end values then the local weather changes generated can be complex

  • rate this

    Comment number 648.

    We seem to have an aversion to exercise in this country. Every morning when I'm walking I see people driving off a few minutes to a shop to buy a newspaper.

    even see a man delivering newspapers in a car! stopping it, delivering a paper, starting it up again and moving about 10 meters to do the same.

    I wonder how much other unnecessary small car trips people do? and they say fuel is expensive.

  • rate this

    Comment number 647.

    If other energy forms were costed on a level playing field then Nuclear would be cheap. We don't cost wind, solar, hydrocarbons etc on the same level. For example disposal of CO2 from petrol makes a litre cost £15. Now who would be prepared to pay £15 a litre to run their car but this is how nuclear is costed. Full life cycle costs need to be considered along with global population reduction

  • rate this

    Comment number 646.

    @624. spam spam spam spam

    "Carbon capture only passes on unsustainable problems/costs/expense to future generations"

    Er no, unless of course you think things like the White Cliffs of Dover are obnoxious. They are carbon capture on a truly grand scale and as for your comment about pedophiles - you should be ashamed of yourself

  • rate this

    Comment number 645.

    And of course, nobody has mentioned methane - otherwise known as cow exhaust and 64 times the greenhouse effect of CO2, and also occasionally the good old ocean bed has a shiver and lets heaven knows how much of it into the air.
    Still, I suppose we could go out and shoot every animal on the planet.......

    ....but I can't, because apparently I have to "read more and go out more" (?????)

  • rate this

    Comment number 644.

    From Shadorne:
    "Sir Patrick Moore said,
    "'Now for global warming. Of course we are going through a period of warming, but so far as human culpability is concerned I am a
    total sceptic and I fear we are dealing with political manoeuvring.'"

    He didn't deny warming, he just meant avoid getting inflamed by politics, and look at the science. Scepticism in science is not the same as denial.

  • rate this

    Comment number 643.

    441. Drunken Hobo ......regardless of how long ago the Ordovician period was..there was a massive million year long ice age. with CO2 levels 10 to 20 times more than the paltry 400ppm we have unless modern science is flawed CO2 does not effect climate in the scaremongering way that climate scientists of today would let us believe...if the grants were cut, climate change science would die

  • rate this

    Comment number 642.

    603. MatthewTodd

    "Shocking how many of you wont believe science that is supported by Stephen Hawking"
    Many other scientists are conned into supporting Climate Science after being told by functionaries that Climate Science is a solid as the field they are in. "Solid gold old boy" and "stand by them as all science is being attacked etc"

  • rate this

    Comment number 641.

    616 - "If wrong about climate change I`ll dance for joy"

    Yes but will you return the money to those who had to pay the climate change tax?
    And would any one apologise to those who were scammed?
    A big objection from people is that they know they will end up paying for climate change, and it will not be the big corporations that pay.
    It will be the ordinary person.

  • rate this

    Comment number 640.

    @621 "I have yet to see a simple explanation for this: if the CO2 does not allow heat to "escape" (presumably to space), then why does it seemingly allow heat from the sun to pass through"

    It only traps certain wavelengths. The incoming radiation has a shorter wavelength than the outgoing reflected radiation. This is exactly the same way as glass in a greenhouse works.

  • rate this

    Comment number 639.

    It doesn't matter how much tax you give to Al Gore, you won't stop the sun shining.

    Anybody like to give us the true efficiancy fugures for the manufacture, installation and maintenance costs of wind turbnes?

    The real energy saving or producing technologies have already been invented, it's just that corporate greed won't allow us to have FREE ENERGY.

  • rate this

    Comment number 638.

    Let's, for argument, assume MMGW is real. Are we going to do something about people in this country, and abroad, who think they have the right to produce 6 kids and triple their carbon footprint?

    Or are we going to bash motorists which, at best, could lead to a 10% reduction.

    ...Total hypocrisy dooming the planet to destruction from C02 or other resource depletion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 637.

    A researcher myself, i'm puzzled. Surely measuring C02 in Hawaii, an volcanic island chain, is going to give an elevated CO2 reading?

    Hot lava plus sea water leads to super heating and enhanced CO2 levels in the atmosphere as the absorbed Co2 escapes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 636.

    Call for action over CO2 ? Yeah, like that'll ever happen. Spewing millions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere every year, is exactly what's required to destroy the planet and seal our doom. There's no money in trying to slow the process, so, nothing will be done...


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