Scientists at the Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii say that CO2 levels in the atmosphere now stand at 387 parts per million (ppm), up almost 40% since the industrial revolution and the highest for at least the last 650,000 years.
The figures, published by NOAA confirm that CO2 is accumulating in the atmosphere faster than expected. From 1970 to 2000, the concentration rose by about 1.5ppm each year, but since 2000 the annual rise has leapt to an average 2.1ppm. Last year it was 2.14ppm.
Scientists say the shift could indicate that the Earth is losing its natural ability to soak up billions of tonnes of CO2 each year. Martin Parry, co-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s working group on impacts, said: “Despite all the talk, the situation is getting worse.”