Gases Hit New High,
By Alister Doyle
18 February, 2007
OSLO - Greenhouse gases widely blamed for causing global
warming have jumped to record highs in the atmosphere, apparently stoked
by rising emissions from Asian industry, a researcher said on Friday.
"Levels are at a new high," said Kim Holmen, research director
of the Norwegian Polar Institute which oversees the Zeppelin measuring
station on the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard about 1,200 km (750 miles)
from the North Pole.
He told Reuters that concentrations
of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas emitted largely by burning
fossil fuels in power plants, factories and cars, had risen to 390 parts
per million (ppm) from 388 a year ago.
Levels have hit peaks almost
every year in recent decades, bolstering theories of warming, and are
far above 270 ppm before the Industrial Revolution of the 18th century.
Climate scientists say the heat-trapping gas is blanketing the planet.
Holmen said the increase
of 2 ppm from 2006 reflected an accelerating rise in recent years. "When
I was young, scientists were talking about 1 ppm rise" every year,
he said. "Since 2000 it has been a very rapid rate."
"The large increases
in release rates are definitely in the Asian economies," led by
China, he said. China is opening coal-fired power plants at the rate
of almost one a week.
Carbon dioxide concentrations
peak just before the northern hemisphere spring, when plants start soaking
up the gas as they grow. Southern hemisphere seasons have less effect
since there are fewer land masses -- and plants -- south of the equator.
The Zeppelin station is run
in cooperation with Stockholm University and is one of the main measuring
points along with a station in Hawaii. Remoteness from industrial centers
Scientists say the concentration
of carbon dioxide, according to the modern records, is at its highest
in the atmosphere in at least 650,000 years.
The world's top climate scientists
said in a report on February 2 they were more than 90 percent certain
that human activities, led by burning fossil fuels, were to blame for
warming. That was up from 66 percent certainty in a previous report
The U.N.'s Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change said that temperature rises were set to accelerate
and could gain by between 1.1 and 6.4 Celsius (2.0-11.5 Fahrenheit)
by 2100, bringing more floods, droughts and rising sea levels.
Apart from human emissions
from burning fossil fuels, he said there were other factors that could
affect carbon dioxide levels in future.
On the one hand, plants may
grow more in a warmer world, soaking up more carbon dioxide. But if
the soil gets warmer, dead plants and leaves may rot more in winter,
releasing more carbon.
Any heating of the oceans
may means less absorption of carbon dioxide, partly because the greater
buoyancy of warmer water inhibits a mixing with deeper levels.
© Reuters Ltd 2007
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