UN Agency: CO2 Concentrations Grew at Record Rate in 2016

(CN) – The amount of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere surged to a record high in 2016, according to a report released by an international climate organization on Monday.

The amount of carbon in the atmosphere spiked to 403.3 parts per million in 2016, up from 400 parts per million in 2015, marking the most carbon-saturated atmosphere in 800,000 years according to a report released by the World Meteorological Organization.

“Without rapid cuts in CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions, we will be heading for dangerous temperature increases by the end of this century, well above the target set by the Paris climate change agreement,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas. “Future generations will inherit a much more inhospitable planet.”

The WMO is an international intergovernmental organization headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. Affiliated with the United Nations and boasting more than 190 members, it is the international authority on the intersection between state policy and the planet’s atmosphere.

The organization’s report attributed the surge in CO2 to a variety of factors, including a strong El Nino event that affected global climate patterns and human activities, such as intensified agricultural practices, deforestation, and increased use of fossil fuel-related energy production.

Concentrations of carbon dioxide are 145 percent of the levels at the start of the Industrial Age in 1750.

The high concentration of the compound in the atmosphere hasn’t occurred since a geologic period beginning nearly 3 million years ago, when the sea level was 30 feet higher and the temperature was about 12 degrees warmer on average, the report says.

“CO2 remains in the atmosphere for hundreds of years and in the oceans for even longer,” Taalas said. “The laws of physics mean that we face a much hotter, more extreme climate in the future.”

Erik Solheim, head of the U.N. Environment Program, said the scientific findings demonstrate a news sense of urgency is needed to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

“The last few years have seen enormous uptake of renewable energy, but we must now redouble our efforts to ensure these new low-carbon technologies are able to thrive,” Solheim said. “We have many of the solutions already to address this challenge. What we need now is global political will and a new sense of urgency,”

In the United States, President Donald Trump has cast doubt regarding the scientific underpinnings of climate change, calling it a myth and a hoax perpetuated by the Chinese.

He withdrew the United States from the Paris agreement in June. The agreement includes pledges from each of the undersigned nations to reduce the emissions that cause carbon dioxide accumulation in the atmosphere, which scientists believe creates warming temperatures and increased frequency in drought, hurricanes, monsoons, wildfires and flooding.

The United States and Syria are the only countries not involved in the Paris agreement in some capacity after Trump’s withdrawal, although the president has apparently signaled to European leaders he would be willing to re-enter the agreement after negotiations.

Meanwhile, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt said there needs to be more scientific debate about the relationship between CO2 accumulation and the atmosphere and climate change, a position that has roiled the scientific community in which there is near consensus that greenhouse gas emissions is causing major changes to the atmosphere.

Pruitt is hardly the only Trump cabinet member to take such a position.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s five-year plan leaked last week shows an emphasis in development of oil, gas and other fossil fuels on public lands while barely mentioning climate change.

Trump also nominated a coal consultant to run the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement last week, another move viewed by experts as favorable to the fossil fuel industry.

Meanwhile, the U.N. Environment Program will release a report Tuesday detailing the policy commitments made by other nations and how they specifically address the emission gap in the run up to 2030 – the deadline for reduced emissions identified in the Paris agreement.

U.N. climate negotiations will commence at Bonn, Germany, on Nov. 7.

 

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