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Atmospheric CO2 levels rising at fastest rate for over half a century

Thu 10 March 2016 | Back to news list

Carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the atmosphere have grown more in the last year than at any time in over half a century according to data measurements taken at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii.

According to a BBC report, scientists say that the CO2 level rose by more than three parts per million(ppm) in 2015 and that the spike is due to a combination of human activities and the El Niño weather pattern.

Mauna Loa is the world's oldest continuous atmospheric measurement station, with records dating back to the later 1950s. It is regarded as the most important site in the global monitoring network.

For the past decade the average increase in CO2 levels recorded at the station has been 2ppm. But in 2015 the level grew by 3.05ppm - In the year to February 2016, the level went up by 3.76ppm.

Scientists at the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) say that the previous biggest increase was in 1998, also an El Niño year.

A WMO spokesperson (reported by the BBC) said: "The impact of El Niño on CO2 concentrations is a natural and relatively short-lived phenomenon.

"But the main long-term driver is greenhouse gas emissions from human activities. We have the power and responsibility to cut these." 

The scientists say the latest figures should encourage global leaders to make progress on the Paris Climate Agreement. The United Nations will be holding a signing ceremony in New York in April, and that the treaty will become operational this year.

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