Hero Background

UN Climate Change Newsroom

READ MORE
CLOSE

These pages and sections capture news of climate change and stories about the groundswell of climate action by governments, companies, cities, the UN and civil society around the globe. To provide feedback, email us at press@unfccc.int Photo©Naziha Mestaoui

Header Image

Concentrations of heat trapping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached a record global average in March, underscoring the crucial importance of reaching an effective universal climate change agreement in Paris at the end of the year.

According to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), monthly global average concentrations of the gas surpassed 400 parts per million in March 2015 for the first time since the administration began tracking carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The current concentrations are unprecedented in millions of years.

The US agency says that the rapid rise is mainly attributable to humans burning fossil fuels. Before the industrial revolution began in around 1850, the global concentration stood at 280 parts per million CO2. Half of the current rise occurred since 1980.

Speaking in the Guardian newspaper, Nick Nuttall, spokesperson of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change said:

These numbers underline the urgency of nations delivering a decisive new universal agreement in Paris in December – one that marks a serious and significant departure from the past.
The agreement and the decisions surrounding it needs to be a long term development plan providing the policies, pathways and finance for triggering a peaking of global emissions in 10 years’ time followed by a deep, decarbonisation of the global economy by the second half of the century - a development plan that crucially also supports the growth as well as the climate ambitions of developing countries.

The 400 parts per million CO2 threshold was already passed at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Observatory in 2013. But this is the first time that the global average crossed the symbolic milestone.

The March figures have only now become available because it takes time for samples to be collected from around the world and analyzed in the NOAA’s laboratory.

According to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, around 80% of known fossil fuel reserves would need to stay in the ground for humanity to limit the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere to 450 parts per million.

This level would in turn give humanity a 50% chance of limiting global warming to the internationally agreed limit of a maximum 2°C global average temperature rise.

Image: NASA

Subscribe to our newsletter