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 675.

    Global consensus - fat and chance come to mine. I will never happen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 674.

    @656 oinkus

    Yes, most people are not aware (or are just plain ignorant) that the big scare story for years was the coming ICE AGE.
    Perhaps the BBC would like to dig out the old news reels?

    Or perhaps they were 'lost' like other 'world shaking events' ?....

  • rate this

    Comment number 673.


    venus is closer to the sun, thus hotter. i think the co2 issue isn't the uk's but the US, india, china, brazil, russia etc ho dont give a damn. The co2 issue in this country is an excuse to push up and introduce taxes,we produce very little, but pay a lot for the priviledge. i am in the middle east - petrol is 24p a litre, cheaper than water. we are conned in our country..conned

  • rate this

    Comment number 672.

    Ice at the south pole is increasing. There is no doubt about climate change, there has been more than one Ice Age so we know the earth climate heats and cools. The debate is how much we are contributing and unfortunately the science of this just isn't settled. China could go mad with co2 production and not a soul could do anything, and we are crippling our economy to meet reduction targets.

  • rate this

    Comment number 671.

    PlayingTheDevilsAvocado ironic you got comment 666.

    That Aside. i would say it shows that all this "let be green and carbon neutral" rubbish is not working in the slightest. if it was the CO² levels would be lowering

  • rate this

    Comment number 670.

    655. Disabled Dave agree with you; some of these 'scientists' are little better than aging environmentalist activists - many would have had no interest in climate science if it were not for the supposed fact that man-made CO2 was causing global warming back in the mid-1980's.

  • rate this

    Comment number 669.

    No. 661 see

    "Sometimes a house gets warmer even when the central heating is turned off. Does this prove that its central heating does not work? Of course not. Perhaps it's a hot day outside, or the oven's been left on for hours."

  • rate this

    Comment number 668.

    I'm undecided about the existence/extent of man made global warming; but I'm very disturbed by the one-sided BBC reporting of the subject.

  • rate this

    Comment number 667.

    @oinkus In the 1960's theories of plate tectonics were only just gaining ground. The first heart transplants were beginning, compared to today place medicine in the dark ages. It is claimed the computing power used on the moon landings was less than is found in a modern laptop. I have heard the argument about the great ice age used to discredit modern science, in fact it shows science develops

  • rate this

    Comment number 666.

    643. Draconis
    As Gondwana moved apart it glaciated, didn't it? Move things to the polar region and it becomes covered in Ice.
    as for Ice ages well we are living in an interstadial are we not?
    no stopping them in the big picture like your looking at, why not ask where did molluscs get the carbon in the Cambrian?

  • rate this

    Comment number 665.

    oinkus. I went to school in the 70's/80s. They were doubting those conclusions by then and the first calls about what we now call climate change were really starting. Another 30/40 years research and we're where we are now. That's how science workd. Physics didn't begin by landing a bloke on the moon.

  • rate this

    Comment number 664.

    Governments don't have the right to do anything about "CO2 emissions". Governments have one job: To protect the individual's rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. All government "action to tackle CO2 levels" will necessarily violate those rights, in total contradiction to government's role as the protector of said rights. It is up to individuals themselves to tackle such "problems".

  • rate this

    Comment number 663.

    .. the Greens don't produce anything except scares to get membership and funds

    if you put that to the Green party I'm pretty sure their response would be "we wish", they're highly envious of the relatively huge funding that Climate Septics, UKIP, get

  • rate this

    Comment number 662.

    I see posts challenging the CO2 measures at Hawaii due to volcanism. Point taken. :) Given that a gas that emits some wavelength if ionised, also absorbs it, I propose a CO2 laser beaming through a large bulk of atmosphere, testing for absorption. It might be annoyingly expensive, on a satellite, with detector on another satellite, but it might give a very uniform measure over hundreds of miles.

  • rate this

    Comment number 661.

    Historically Co2 levels have mimicked global temp, but now CO2 levels have shot up but global temp has not followed that rise. That clearly suggests that CO2 rises as a CONSEQUENCE of rising temperature, not as the cause. Global temperatures have been rising coincidentally at a time when man made CO2 has risen, but globalist Agenda 21 requires a fake man made crisis & CO2 warming is it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 660.

    643 Draconis - But you're ignoring some pretty significant differences between now & then. Nobody claims CO2 is the only thing to change the climate; things like the length of the day being 3 hours shorter, the concentration of O2 being 1/3 lower, the orbit of the Earth & the luminosity of the Sun are far more significant.
    However, none of those things have changed in the past 200 years!

  • rate this

    Comment number 659.

    When you make the lowest rated list on a left of centre BBC HYS topic you know you've hit the mark.
    All you heretics check out your posts.

    Well I'm off, my polytunnel needs topping up with C02 to keep the produce healthy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 658.

    Yes we are damaging our planet in many ways unfortunately. We are a species that must continue to learn & do better, like children growing up always learning. We learn at all ages of our life. We were always going to have certain impacts on our planet. Some people are too harsh on humanity & say we're the problem & let nature take over but would that be the best, just a planet filled with nature?

  • rate this

    Comment number 657.


    Human attempts at carbon capture are nothing like dovers cliffs.

    Human carbon capture is using oil oil/gas wells, filling them up with carbon & plugging them & hoping nothing disturbs them for infinity.

    You should be ashamed at making excuses to pile your lifestyle bile onto tomorrows children/generations, such abuse of future children is no worse than peadophiles today

  • rate this

    Comment number 656.

    Let us not forget that in the 1960's, when I was in high school, the weather was actually much cooler for many years than was characteristic. The scientists then warned of a coming next great ice age all of which they attributed to increasing fossil fuel use with the resultant rise in CO2 cooling our planet. So much for our scientist's and government's collective intelligence, don't you think?


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