Levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere hit a record last year and are likely to keep rising unless emissions are radically cut, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) said in a report.
The UN weather agency found that the so-called "mixing ratios" of carbon dioxide reached an all-time high of 379.1 parts per billion in 2005, and the global average for nitrous oxide hit a record 319.2 parts per billion.
"It looks like this will continue like this for the foreseeable future," Geir Braathen, senior scientific officer at the Geneva-based organisation, said of the rise, which extended the steady upward trend seen in recent decades.
"At least for the next few years, we do not expect any deceleration in the concentration," he said.
Scientists say the accumulation of such gases -- generated by burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas -- traps the sun's rays and causes the temperature of the Earth to rise, leading to a melting of polar ice caps and glaciers, a spike in extreme weather, storms and floods, and other environmental shifts that are expected to worsen in coming years.
Speaking ahead of a major UN meeting on climate change next week in Nairobi, Braathen said the Kyoto Protocol on emissions-cutting was not strong enough in its current form to stabilise or cut the build-up of greenhouse gases.
"To really make C02 (carbon dioxide) concentrations level off, we will need more drastic measures than are in the Kyoto Protocol today," he said. The pact took effect last year and calls for the greenhouse gases emitted by developed countries to be cut to at least 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-12.
A detailed study of the economics of global warming, issued in London on Monday, said that if determined global action to tackle climate change were taken now, the benefits would far outweigh the economic and human costs.
Failure to act swiftly could result in world temperatures rising by 5 degrees Celsius (9 Fahrenheit) over the next century, causing severe floods and droughts and uprooting some 200 million people, the Stern report said.
Written by: Planet Ark
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