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. Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Concentrations Reach Record Levels In 2005

The environmental group WWF this week urged countries to produce a "clear" plan for a "Kyoto plus" treaty on even deeper cuts in carbon dioxide emissions after 2012. Photo courtesy of AFP.
by Peter Capella
Geneva (AFP) Nov 3, 2006
Global concentrations of carbon dioxide, the major greenhouse gas blamed for climate change, reached in 2005 the highest levels ever recorded, the UN's weather agency said Friday. The trend of growing emissions from industry, transport and power generation from burning fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal is set to continue despite an international agreement to cap emissions, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) warned.

"To really make CO2 level off we will need more drastic measures than are in the (1997) Kyoto Protocol today," senior WMO scientist Geir Braathen told reporters.

"Every human being on this globe should think about how much CO2 he or she emits and try to do something about that," he said.

The latest data gathered from monitoring stations, ships and aircraft around the world were contained in the WMO's second annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin.

Globally averaged mean ratios of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere reached 379.1 parts per million (ppm), an increase of 0.5 percent over 2004

Concentrations of nitrous oxide (N2O), another key greenhouse gas, reached 319.2 ppm in 2005, an annual increase of 0.2 percent, the bulletin added.

"In 2005, globally averaged concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached their highest levels ever recorded," the WMO said in a statement.

Braathen said the levels of the two greenhouse gases were increasing at steady rates, in line with a decades-long trend.

"It looks like it would continue like this for the foreseeable future," he added.

"The current Kyoto Protocol will not be sufficient to stabilise. It will maybe reduce the increase, but this will still take time," he added.

The treaty sets limits for emissions of six greenhouse gases emitted mainly by burning oil, gas and coal, including carbon dioxide, from 2008, for the 165 countries that have ratified it.

The United States and Australia have rejected the compulsory cap, while developing countries, including China and its booming economy, are not covered by Kyoto.

A report for the British government released this week warned that unchecked climate change would cause huge economic damage worldwide, estimated at between five and 20 percent of global gross domestic product every year.

The governments involved in the Kyoto Protocol are due to meet in Nairobi from Monday to examine their future path in combatting global warming.

The environmental group WWF this week urged them to produce a "clear" plan for a "Kyoto plus" treaty on even deeper cuts in carbon dioxide emissions after 2012.

Braathen said Friday: "Every intiative to bring down greenhouse gases is a welcome one and will help maybe to convince others that change is necessary."

He insisted that the data on greenhouse gases, which scientists only began to gather and analyse systematically at a global level two years ago, was the product of consensus among scientists.

"We believe that this data has a really good scientific foundation," he said.

The bulletin showed that levels of another greenhouse gas, methane, which have been following a similar growth pattern to carbon dioxide, have begun to level off since 1999. "This has come as a surprise to the scientific community... There is no real good explanation why," Braathen said.

Methane is produced both by burning fossil fuels, and by natural sources such as wetlands, termites, and ruminant animals like cows.

earlier related report
Scientific news grim for UN talks on global warming
Paris (AFP) Nov 5 - An upcoming UN conference on climate change is taking place against a darkening background of scientific news, for barely a week goes by without a major study adding to a tall pile of distressing evidence. Doubts about the reality of global warming that were significant half a dozen years ago have today shrunk to zero, leaving only denialists and fossil-industry lobbyists in opposition.

A steady drumbeat of data confirms the rise in Earth's surface temperature and the part played by oil, gas and coal, whose invisible carbon pollution traps the Sun's heat, in effect creating a global greenhouse.

Scientists report melting sea ice around the North Pole, shrivelling glaciers in Greenland and Europe, retreating permafrost in Siberia and progressive acidification of the seas from atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2).

These phenomena could be the canaries in the coal mine: the forerunners of damaging, some say even potentially catastrophic, changes to the world's climate system.

Such is the backdrop to the November 6-17 meeting of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the parent of the Kyoto Protocol on curbing dangerous greenhouse gases.

"What was forecast back in 1990 is being confirmed today," said Jean Jouzel, a French expert who is a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world's foremost scientific authority on global warming.

"Surface temperatures are rising by around 0.2 C (0.35 F) a decade. On top of that the effects of climate change are now visible. The skeptics are seeing their arguments melt like ice in the sun."

The IPCC was set up in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) to provide neutral, science-based assessments on climate change.

Its last assessment was published in early 2001 and confirmed that global warming was underway. The next report is due in early 2007.

"We get together to update our knowledge every six years, assessing certainties and uncertainties. I don't know of any other issue where an effort of this magnitude is made," says French researcher Valerie Masson-Delmotte, who is contributing to a chapter on the climate in the past.

The 2001 IPCC report suggested that by 2100, the mean global temperature will have risen by between 1.4 and 5.8 C (2.5 and 10.4 F).

Since then, climate science has leapt ahead, both in terms of the depth and range of research and the tools, especially computer power, available to do it.

The latest lab simulations do not point to any significant shift in temperature rise from the 2001 forecast, said Jouzel.

But temperature is only one factor in an equation whose complexity, it is now emerging, is far greater than was previously thought.

The newest research says that a bland global figure of temperature rise will mask wide regional variations -- which in turn will affect winds and rainfall patterns and thus fuel the risk of regional droughts and floods.

Just as worrying is evidence that triggers have been unleashed which could amplify global warming: in effect, creating a vicious circle.

These so-called positive feedbacks include the release of methane that had been locked for millennia in the frozen soil of northern Siberia, and the loss of glaciers and snow cover. Ice and snow are white and thus reflect the Sun -- strip away that cover and the exposed soil, because it is dark, traps the heat.

Just as depressing is the realisation that the global warming machine will work for years and years to come.

If levels of greenhouse gases miraculously stabilised tomorrow, there is already so much carbon in the atmosphere that the temperature will continue to rise until 2300, said Serge Planton, an IPCC member who also heads climate research at the French weather agency Meteo-France.

Even though knowledge about global warming has advanced enormously, there remain significant areas of doubt, debate or ignorance.

These areas include the health of Antarctica; whether global warming will make hurricanes and other storms more vicious or frequent; and the role of the deep oceans in the highly complex interchange of heat.

The UNFCCC meeting in Nairobi will gather politicians for talks to gear up the Kyoto Protocol, a treaty with a flawed and troubled history, to meet the challenge.

Thousands of grassroots campaigners will take part, as will representatives from businesses in the fast-growing sectors of renewable energy, carbon trading and adaptation to climate change.

earlier related report
Related Links
World Meteorological Organisation
Learn about Climate Science at TerraDaily.com

UN To Solve Emissions Crisis
United Nations (UPI) Nov 3, 2006
The United Nations will host a conference on climate change in Nairobi, Kenya, Monday to discuss ways to improve the climate amid British warnings of a worldwide disaster should governments fail to cooperate on global warming.

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