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WMO: Greenhouse Gas Emissions Highest in 800,000 Years

FILE - A coal-fired plant is seen emitting carbon dioxide, in Juliette, Georgia, June, 3, 2017.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reports greenhouse gas emissions in Earth's atmosphere have reached the highest level ever in 800,000 years. The figure was made public at the launch in Geneva of the WMO’s annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin.

The report was released in advance of next week’s U.N. climate change negotiations in Bonn, Germany. It is meant as a wake-up call to nations that time is running out to take the necessary actions to curb global warning.

The WMO reports CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere surged at record-breaking speed last year to historic highs. The WMO says CO2 levels are now 145 percent higher than pre-industrial levels. It warns this has the potential to change the climate systems in unprecedented and disastrous ways.

WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas says this is already occurring. He told VOA scientists have been able to track the variability of carbon dioxide concentrations thousands of years back.

“We have far exceeded this natural variability that took place in the past and we are giving extra energy for our planet. We have already started seeing a growing amount of natural disasters related to weather. And, for example, the economic losses related to these disasters, they have tripled since the 80s. So, that is a consequence of climate change,” Taalas said.

The report finds CO2 contributes more than 60 percent to the heating of the planet and that human activity and natural climate variability are behind the substantial increase in greenhouse gas concentrations.

Taalas warned temperature increases will reach dangerous levels by the end of the century without rapid cuts in CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions. He said measures to mitigate climate change must be urgently taken.

Taalas said work on developing renewable energy systems and transportation systems, including electric and hybrid cars, must be accelerated. He added these low carbon technologies can play an important role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and lowering the Earth’s heat for future generations.