GENEVA—The U.N weather agency says global warming gases have hit record levels in the world’s atmosphere, with concentrations of carbon dioxide up 39 per cent since the start of the industrial era in 1750.
Figures for 2010 from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) show that CO2 levels are now at 389 parts per million, up from about 280 parts per million 250 years ago.
The levels are significant because the gases trap heat in the atmosphere.
WMO Deputy Secretary-General Jeremiah Lengoasa says CO2 emissions are to blame for about 80 per cent of the rise, but noted the lag between what gets pumped into the atmosphere and its effect on climate.
Negotiators from virtually all the world’s nations will gather later this month in South Africa to uncover ways to head off the worst of the climate disruptions that researchers predict if concentrations hit 450-parts-per-million.
That could happen within several decades at the current rate.
But some climate activists and vulnerable nations say the world has already passed the danger point of 350-parts-per-million and must somehow undo it.
The WMO said an increase of 2.3 parts per million in CO2 in the atmosphere between 2009 and 2010 shows an acceleration from the average 1.5 parts per million increase during the 1990s.
Since 1750, WMO says atmospheric concentrations of CO2 have risen 39 per cent, while those of nitrous oxide have gone up 20 per cent. Concentrations of methane jumped 158 per cent.