“Globally averaged concentrations of CO2 reached 403.3 parts per million in 2016, up from 400.00 ppm in 2015 because of a combination of human activities and a strong El Niño event,” it said.
The Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, the UN weather agency’s annual flagship report, tracks the content of dangerous gases in atmosphere in the post-industrial era (since 1750).
The report also said that the last time Earth experienced similar CO2 concentration rates was three to five million years ago, when the sea level was up to 20m higher than now.
“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,” WMO chief Petteri Taalas said in a statement.
The historic agreement approved by 196 countries two years ago is facing renewed pressure following US president Donald Trump’s decision to quit the accord.
But nations are set to press on with the task of implementing it at climate talks in Bonn next week.
Prof Dave Reay, professor of carbon management at the University of Edinburgh, said: “This should set alarm bells ringing in the corridors of power. We know that, as climate change intensifies, the ability of the land and oceans to mop up our carbon emissions will weaken. There’s still time to steer these emissions down and so keep some control, but if we wait too long humankind will become a passenger on a one-way street to dangerous climate change.”
“The numbers don’t lie. We are still emitting far too much and this needs to be reversed,” the head of UN Environment Erik Solheim said in a statement, reacting to the new report. “What we need now is global political will and a new sense of urgency.”
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