World carbon dioxide pollution levels in the atmosphere are accelerating and reached a record high in 2012, the U.N. weather agency said last Wednesday.
The heat-trapping gas, pumped into the air by cars and smokestacks, was measured at 393.1 parts per million last year, up 2.2 ppm from the previous year, said the Geneva-based World Meteorological Organization in its annual greenhouse gas inventory.
That is far beyond the 350 ppm that some scientists and environmental groups promote as the absolute upper limit for a safe level.
As the chief gas blamed for global warming, carbon dioxide’s 2012 increase outpaced the past decade’s average annual increase of 2.02 ppm.
Based on that rate, the organization says the world’s carbon dioxide pollution level is expected to cross the 400 ppm threshold by 2016. That level already was reached at some individual measurement stations in 2012 and 2013.
Carbon dioxide remains in the air for a century, some of it far longer, which means that a lot of future warming is already locked in.
The Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which is headquartered at the organization, says starvation, poverty, flooding, heat waves, droughts, war and disease are likely to worsen as the world warms from man-made climate change.
The warming of the planet since 1950 is “unprecedented,” the panel says, and the Earth will warm by at least 2 more degrees Fahrenheit this century, unless the world drastically cuts emissions, which appears unlikely.
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