Surprising almost nobody, the United Nations says globally averaged concentrations of carbon dioxide have increased again, reaching 403.3 parts per million in 2016. That’s up from 400.00 in 2015, and is said to be the highest level in 800,000 years. The figures are taken from the Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, which is put together every year by the U.N.’s World Meteorological Organization.
The report says that the new high is a result of both the strong El Niño event and human activities. It also points out that “the rate of increase of atmospheric CO2 over the past 70 years is nearly 100 times larger than that at the end of the last ice age,” adding that “such abrupt changes in the atmospheric levels of CO2 have never before been seen.”
In a statement accompanying the news, World Meteorological Organization secretary-general Petteri Taalas points out what that means for the planet and humankind:
Without rapid cuts in CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions, we will be heading for dangerous temperature increases by the end of this century, well above the target set by the Paris climate change agreement … The laws of physics mean that we face a much hotter, more extreme climate in the future … Future generations will inherit a much more inhospitable planet.
And the U.N.’s head of Environment, Erik Solheim, follows up with what that means for policy makers:
The numbers don't lie. We are still emitting far too much and this needs to be reversed. The last few years have seen enormous uptake of renewable energy, but we must now redouble our efforts to ensure these new low-carbon technologies are able to thrive. We have many of the solutions already to address this challenge. What we need now is global political will and a new sense of urgency.