May 22, 2013

The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere recently pushed past the 400 parts per million (ppm) mark for the first time in human history, with greenhouse gases not recorded at this level for several million years.

Prof Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which advises the world’s governments, argued that hitting this milestone was significant for the future of our planet.

“The passing of this milestone is a significant reminder of the rapid rate at which – and the extent to which – we have increased the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.”

"At the beginning of industrialisation the concentration of CO2 was just 280ppm. We must hope that the world crossing this milestone will bring about awareness of the scientific reality of climate change and how human society should deal with the challenge."

While a recent report from the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has outlined that the last two decades has seen the UK’s carbon emissions fall by 20%, the fact that the UK is increasingly relying on energy imports means that it has accumulated "embodied" emissions on imports, sending CO2 production up by an overall figure of 10%.

Commenting on the figures, Guy Shrubsole, Energy Campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: "Ministers must come clean about our carbon emissions - it's no good pretending they're falling, when UK imports have actually caused them to rise. This reveals the truth behind attempts to blame countries like China for climate change, when a significant proportion of their emissions are produced in order to maintain our quality of life."

The government has set a climate change goal of reducing C02 emissions by a total of 80% by 2050 (from the 1990 baseline), and a new report by Carbon Connect, an ‘independent forum that facilitates discussion and debate between business, government and parliament’, argues that there are “substantial benefits" to keeping fossil fuels, which are used in heating oil, in the mix of energy sources beyond 2030.

“Fossil fuel power stations provide supply flexibility, which will become increasingly important as use of intermittent sources such as wind, solar and marine energy increases, and patterns of demand shift due to the electrification of transport and heating. Coal and gas plants fitted with CCS [carbon capture and storage technologies] may be able to provide these services at a lower cost than alternative options, without the carbon penalty of unabated plants," the report reads.

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