CO2 levels ‘are close to point of no return’

Environmental campaigners say rise is giving atmosphere a ‘real shock’ as fifth hottest year in a row is cause for alarm.

Environmental campaigners say the fight against climate change must go on, after scientists found a rise in carbon dioxide levels has paved the way for the fifth consecutive hottest year on record.

One expert said a spike in CO2 has given the atmosphere “a real shock” amid warnings that levels are close to the point of no return.

The UAE in particular, according to Wednesday’s report, was one degree hotter in February than in previous years.

The US National Centres for Environmental Information said readings measured at Mauna Loa Baseline Atmospheric Observatory in Hawaii rose by 3 parts per million to 405.1 parts per million (ppm) in 2016, an increase that matched the record jump observed in 2015.

“That doesn’t mean we can’t do anything about it. The world has come together to prioritise climate change around the Paris Agreement,” said Tanzeed Alam, a climate change expert at the Emirates Wildlife Society. Key to the Paris Agreement, the world’s first global agreement on climate change, is limiting greenhouse gases and keeping global temperature increases “well below 2°C”.

The UAE is a signatory, as is India, one of the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitters.

“Climate

Mr Alam said countries like the UAE were not immune to the effect of climate change.

He said organisations must start thinking about how to mitigate their own contribution to emissions.

“Last year was the hottest on record,” he said.

“The jump in greenhouse gas between 2015 and this year is unprecedented in the observatory’s 59-year record,” said Pieter Tans, lead scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“The rate of CO2 growth over the last decade is 100 to 200 times faster than what the Earth experienced during the transition from the last Ice Age. This is a real shock to the atmosphere.”

Atmospheric CO2 averaged about 280 ppm before the start of the Industrial Revolution in the 1760s.

By contrast, global CO2 levels surpassed 400 ppm in 2015 – a 43-per cent increase over pre-industrial levels.

Scientists began seeing greenhouse gasses and fossil-fuel based emissions reach record highs in 2011.

The report released this week showed that February had the highest CO2 emissions on record.

Mr Tans said that the greenhouse gas increase is directly related to the rise in temperature.

“For the oceans, the February globally-averaged sea surface temperature was 0.69°C above the 20th century average of 15.9°C,” according to the report.

“Much of the world’s oceans had warmer to much-warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures during February this year.”

nalwasmi@thenational.ae