30 Apr 2009 06:04:05
Scientists warn CO2 emissions approaching disastrous levels
The world must switch to low-carbon power before the burning of fossil fuels raises global temperatures by two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, it has been claimed.
According to researchers from Oxford University and Germany's Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, 1 trillion tonnes of carbon will need to be emitted over the 'anthropocene' period (circa 1750 to 2500) to bring about such a change in the environment.
That equates to 3,600 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, a figure which the scientists estimated in the journal Nature that we are already halfway towards meeting.
If the risk of temperatures rising by 2 degrees Celsius is to be minimised, the scientists argued, political leaders must ensure that less than 1,000 billion tonnes of man-made CO2 is produced between 2000 and 2050.
However, the world has already emitted one-third of this amount in just 9 years and the researchers, Dr Malte Meinshausen and Dr Myles Allen, forecast that it will take just 20 more years before this carbon budget has been exceeded.
Dr Allen said: "Mother Nature doesn't care about dates. To avoid dangerous climate change we will have to limit the total amount of carbon we inject into the atmosphere, not just the emission rate in any given year."
The research was supported by the Natural Environment Research Council, which estimates that the globe's average surface temperature rose by 0.7 percent during the 20th century. http://www.nerc.ac.uk/research/issues/climatechange/