Science & Environment

No let up in greenhouse gas rise

Chimneys at coal power plant
Image caption Concentrations have jumped to a new record

Concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere rose to yet another high in 2010, according to the UN's weather agency.

Levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) - the major contributor to climate change - rose by 2.3 parts per million between 2009 and 2010.

That exceeds the average for the past decade of 2.0 parts per million, the World Meteorological Organization says.

The latest round of UN climate talks begin in South Africa in two weeks.

"The atmospheric burden of greenhouse gases due to human activities has yet again reached record levels since pre-industrial time," said World Meteorological Organization Secretary-General Michel Jarraud.

Concentrations of CO2 reached 389 parts per million in 2010 - the highest such concentrations since the start of the industrial era in 1750.

CO2 is the greenhouse gas of greatest concern to policy makers looking to stem human-induced climate change.

The WMO said levels of methane - considered the second most important greenhouse gas - had risen after a period of relative stabilisation from 1999 to 2006.

This could be due to the thawing of the Northern permafrost and increased emissions from tropical wetlands.

Nitrous oxide, emitted into the atmosphere from natural and man-made sources, including biomass burning and fertiliser use, was 323.2 parts per billion in 2010 - 20%higher than in the pre-industrial era.

The WMO numbers follow the recent release of data from the US Oak Ridge National Laboratory, showing a huge surge in carbon dioxide emissions from 2009 to 2010.

The climate talks in Durban, South Africa, run from 28 November to 9 December and are likely to test global resolve to tackle greenhouse emissions.

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