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Mauna Loa readings show increased greenhouse gas

  • A scientist works at Hawaii's Mauna Loa Observatory, 11,141 feet  above sea level in this March 19, 2004. The observatory measures the density of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which are argley blamed for global warming . (Associated Press)

    A scientist works at Hawaii's Mauna Loa Observatory, 11,141 feet above sea level in this March 19, 2004. The observatory measures the density of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which are argley blamed for global warming . (Associated Press)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESSFILE - In this July 10, 2007, file photo, the coal-fired Plant Scherer in operation at Juliette, Ga. For the second year in a row, the EPA's data shows that the largest greenhouse gas polluter in the nation in 2011 was the Scherer power plant in Juliette. The plant, owned by Atlanta-based Southern Co., reported releasing more than 22 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, the chief greenhouse gas, in 2011. Heat-trapping gases from U.S. power plants fell 4.6 percent in 2011 from the previous year as plants burned less coal, the biggest source of greenhouse gas pollution, according to a new government report. (AP Photo/Gene Blythe, File)
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    FILE - In this July 10, 2007, file photo, the coal-fired Plant Scherer in operation at Juliette, Ga. For the second year in a row, the EPA's data shows that the largest greenhouse gas polluter in the nation in 2011 was the Scherer power plant in Juliette. The plant, owned by Atlanta-based Southern Co., reported releasing more than 22 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, the chief greenhouse gas, in 2011. Heat-trapping gases from U.S. power plants fell 4.6 percent in 2011 from the previous year as plants burned less coal, the biggest source of greenhouse gas pollution, according to a new government report. (AP Photo/Gene Blythe, File)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS**ADVANCE FOR TUESDAY, NOV. 24** This Oct. 25, 2009 photo shows the Mauna Loa Observatory atmospheric research facility on the island of Hawaii.  The volcano of Mauna Kea is seen in the background.  The station sits on the north flank of Mauna Loa volcano at an elevation of 3396 meters or 11,141 feet above sea level and has been studying atmospheric change since the 1950's.  (AP Photo/Chris Stewart)
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    **ADVANCE FOR TUESDAY, NOV. 24** This Oct. 25, 2009 photo shows the Mauna Loa Observatory atmospheric research facility on the island of Hawaii. The volcano of Mauna Kea is seen in the background. The station sits on the north flank of Mauna Loa volcano at an elevation of 3396 meters or 11,141 feet above sea level and has been studying atmospheric change since the 1950's. (AP Photo/Chris Stewart)

WASHINGTON >> The amount of heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the air jumped dramatically in 2012, making it very unlikely that global warming can be limited to another 2 degrees as many global leaders have hoped, new measurements from Mauna Loa in Hawaii show.

Scientists say the rise in CO2 reflects the world’s economy revving up and burning more fossil fuels, especially in China.

Carbon dioxide levels jumped by 2.67 parts per million since 2011 to total just under 395 parts per million, says Pieter Tans, who leads the greenhouse gas measurement team for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

That’s the second highest rise in carbon emissions since record-keeping began in 1959. The measurements are taken from air samples captured away on top of  Mauna Loa on Hawaii island.

More coal-burning power plants, especially in the developing world, are the main reason emissions keep going up — even as they have declined in the U.S. and other places, in part through conservation and cleaner energy.

At the same time, plants and the world’s oceans which normally absorb some carbon dioxide, last year took in less than they do on average, says John Reilly, co-director of Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change. Plant and ocean absorption of carbon varies naturally year to year.

But, Tans tells The Associated Press the major factor is ever-rising fossil fuel burning: “It’s just a testament to human influence being dominant.”

Only 1998 had a bigger annual increase in carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas from human activity. That year, 2.93 parts per million of CO2 was added. From 2000 to 2010, the world averaged a yearly rise of just under 2 parts per million. Levels rose by less than 1 part per million in the 1960s.

In 2009, the world’s nations agreed on a voluntary goal of limiting global warming to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit over pre-industrial temperature levels. Since the mid-1800s temperatures haven already risen about 1.5 degrees. Current pollution trends translate to another 2.5 to 4.5 degrees of warming within the next several decades, Reilly says.

“The prospects of keeping climate change below that (2-degree goal) are fading away,” Tans says.

Scientists track carbon pollution both by monitoring what comes out of factories and what winds up in the atmosphere. Both are rising at rates faster than worst-case scenarios that climate scientists used in their most recent international projections, according to Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann.

That means harmful effects of climate change will happen sooner, Mann says.

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