In Brief

Greenhouse gas levels rise to record high

UN scientists warn ‘window of opportunity’ to tackle emissions is rapidly closing as carbon dioxide reaches 3 million-year-high

Greenhouse gases which drive global warming have hit levels not seen in three million years, prompting the UN to warn the window of opportunity to tackle emissions is almost closed.

The annual bulletin on greenhouse gases from the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) has found carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane gas are still rising, while banned ozone-depleting CFCs have also seen a resurgence.

“The last time the Earth experienced a comparable concentration of carbon dioxide was 3 to 5 million years ago, when the temperature was 2 to 3C warmer and sea level was 10 to 20 metres higher than now,” said WMO secretary general, Petteri Taalas.

The rise in concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere are now 46% greater than before the industrial revolution and the warming impact of these gases on the climate has increased by 41% since 1990.

Essentially, these findings “underline the fact that there is no sign in the atmosphere that efforts to cut greenhouse gases are having any success”, says the BBC.

It follows a recent report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which warned that the world needed to be essentially carbon neutral by 2050.

Scientists hope these figures will sharpen minds ahead of the COP24 meeting in Katowice, Poland, next week, where countries will discuss putting the Paris climate agreement into practice and increasing their ambitions when it comes to cutting warming gases.

“The science is clear,” Taalas said. “Without rapid cuts in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, climate change will have increasingly destructive and irreversible impacts on life on Earth.”

“The window of opportunity for action is almost closed” he added.

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