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 695.

    Everyone abroad: PIease start boycotting Corporate America. Americans shouldn't have to put up with these pigs as roll models.

  • rate this

    Comment number 694.

    Nobody is serious about any of this. It's all just a money spinner. Just take a look at any recent picture of any modern major city at night. Office blocks and the skyscrapers ablaze with lights and no doubt all the computer terminals at desks etc. all running, including bank holidays. If anybody was serious action would be taken to start curbing such use.

  • rate this

    Comment number 693.

    Stew: 30-40 year delay on anything we do now. Known for years.

  • rate this

    Comment number 692.

    674. LUFC_FR

    We live in the holocene, an interstadial period between 2 glacial periods, which is still due to come to an end but your better of thinking about milankovitch cycles at that point.

    690. ProfPhoenix
    I think I disagree with you there, but if we dont research how could you prove me wrong??

  • rate this

    Comment number 691.

    It is interesting to see a change in these arguments over the last couple of years.

    Not so long ago, the climate sceptics were getting all the press (with the help of a stupid producer at C4) and were getting the highest votes on HYS.

    Now they are getting the lowest votes.

    So what changed? Oh yes, the lies of the sceptics was drowned out by the almost unanimous voice of proper science.

  • rate this

    Comment number 690.

    Pull the other one. The climate change scam is coming to an end. Scientists who need financial support are climbing on to an ever shrinking bandwagon. Sorry guys, we don't believe you. There is no man made global warming. Science is settled, well established, the truth has been revealed - poof. Just rhetoric to give credence to a political agenda.

  • rate this

    Comment number 689.

    most people are not aware ..that the big scare story for years was the coming ICE AGE.

    for a while in the 70's the popular press ran stories based on a couple of scientists predicting an ice age, actually we are heading into one but its not, in human terms, imminent. The majority of scientific papers at the time were about warming, 1st paper to use the term global warming was 1975

  • rate this

    Comment number 688.

    @654 I'm not sure how you jumped from my last post to the Greenhouse Effect. Venus is hot, yes but Mars which also has a high CO2 atmosphere is cold. So what's your point?

  • rate this

    Comment number 687.

    From 674. LUFC_FR:
    "Yes, most people are not aware (or are just plain ignorant) that the big scare story for years was the coming ICE AGE."

    Ice age not true, so warming not true? Did it occur to you that an ice age might be delayed because of warming? (Ice age study shows it's not a simple regular pattern anyway, and that currently we are still in one! In really warm periods, Antartica thaws.)

  • rate this

    Comment number 686.


    This year we have had the coldest March, the coldest April and we are on our way to have the coldest May for ages.
    You need to learn the difference between weather and climate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 685.

    Love all the eugenics supporters mouthing off about over population. If you believed in your cause so much do the earth a favour and take the population down by one. Or is it only the bottom feeders and degenerates you think need to be removed from the equation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 684.

    Before I said nature, but what I meant was, It wouldn't be the ultimate solution if our planet was just filled with plants & animals & had no people.

    We humans are a part of nature & we do have a place on this planet. We have to learn that we need the other parts of nature & that we have to reduce our negative impacts while still looking after humanity's needs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 683.

    'Ministers in the UK have claimed global leadership in reducing CO2 emissions and urged other nations to follow suit.'

    Please don't make me laugh. Do people in China see it this way? No they don't. We are deluded and irrelevant.

  • rate this

    Comment number 682.

    @674 -- The predicted coming ice age was based on static continents - since that prediction, Plate Tectonics was discovered. PBS in the US is showing the geologic history of Australia. That continent had a rain forest in its middle while it was joined to Antarctica (also green) when they split antarctica went south to the pole & Australian interior became desert.

  • rate this

    Comment number 681.

    668 meanmydog - Are you also disturbed at the one-sided reporting of heliocentricm, evolution or germ theory? "Sceptics" like to pretend there's still debate going on about climate change - there isn't. The debate finished years ago, with CO2-based climate change winning. It is a well-documented and understood phenomenon and no hypothesis in the past 50 years has come close to beating it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 680.

    No. 673 it's not that simple I'm afraid - Mercury is CLOSER to the Sun than Venus and at times its surface temperature is as low as −173 °C - MUCH lower than that of Venus because it has almost no atmosphere.

  • rate this

    Comment number 679.

    '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'

    UKIP aren't the only people skeptical about the climate change mantra, or about the renewable industry that depends on it. That industry has the support of Government, and £millions of subsidy, isn't that enough funding?

  • rate this

    Comment number 678.

    UKIP to the rescue.. Again....

  • rate this

    Comment number 677.

    The Royal Society has produced a new guide to the science of climate change. The guide summarises the current scientific evidence on climate change and its drivers, highlighting the areas where the science is well established, where there is still some debate, and where substantial uncertainties remain:

  • rate this

    Comment number 676.

    These estimates don't come from ice cores; currently the longest ice core record is from EPICA Dome C in Antarctica, extending ~ 800,000 years. Estimates of climate variables from before then would have come from other proxies (see


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