NEW DELHI: As governments dilly-dally in climate change negotiations, carbon dioxide levels continue to rise in the atmospherepushing the world towards an environmental catastrophe. Latest data released by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration of US reveals that CO2 levels showed the second highest ever increase in 2012 since records started being kept in 1959.

Carbon dioxide levels jumped by 2.67 parts per million since 2011 to total just under 395 parts per million, says Pieter Tans, who leads the greenhouse gas measurement team for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, according to AP.

By comparison, global carbon levels averaged a yearly rise of just under 2 parts per million from 2000 to 2010, and increased by less than 1 part per million in the 1960s.

The measurements are taken from air samples captured away from civilization near a volcano in Mauna Loa, Hawaii.

In 2009, the world’s nations agreed on a voluntary goal of limitingglobal warming to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit over pre-industrial temperature levels. Since the mid-1800s temperatures haven already risen about 1.5 degrees. Current pollution trends translate to another 2.5 to 4.5 degrees of warming within the next several decades, says John Reilly, co-director of Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, AP reported.

More coal-burning power plants, especially in the developing world, are the main reason emissions keep going up – even as they have declined in the U.S. and other places, in part through conservation and cleaner energy. At the same time, plants and the world’s oceans which normally absorb some carbon dioxide, last year took in less than they do on average, says Reilly. Plant and ocean absorption of carbon varies naturally year to year.

With this kind of rise, it is unlikely that global warming can be limited to 2 degree Celsius limit which most scientists agree is the minimum to prevent catastrophic climate change.

“The prospects of keeping climate change below that (2-degree goal) are fading away,” Tans said.

Scientists have calculated that to stay under the 2 degree limit, 565 gigatons of CO2 can be allowed into the atmosphere by 2050. Even then there is 75 percent chance that temperatures will not rise beyond 2 degrees. As things are going, this carbon budget will be exhausted in just 16 years from now. After that, to rescue the world, mankind will have to keep most of the fossil fuel in the ground.

If temperatures increase by 2 degrees or more, the world faces sea level rise, disruption of water supplies, global crop declines, a rise in ocean acidification threatening marine ecosystems, and several other types of long term damages.

Courtesy: THE TIMES OF INDIA

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