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Subject Levels of greenhouse gas emitted hit a record high in 2006
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Original Message [link to thescotsman.scotsman.com]

Climate alert as levels hit new high
ALISTER DOYLE

LEVELS of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas emitted by burning fossil fuels, hit a record high in the atmosphere in 2006, accelerating global warming, the World Meteorological Organisation said yesterday.

But concentrations of methane, the second most important heat-trapping gas, flattened out, indicating that Siberian permafrost is staying frozen despite some scientists' fears that rising temperatures might trigger a runaway thaw.

is the main gas from human activities blamed by the UN climate panel for stoking warming.

"In 2006, globally averaged concentrations of in the atmosphere reached their highest levels ever recorded," the United Nations organisation said.

The WMO said levels rose 0.53 per cent from 2005 to 381.2 parts per million of the atmosphere, 36 per cent above levels before the Industrial Revolution began in the 18th century.

Levels of nitrous oxide, another greenhouse gas produced by burning fuels and industrial processes, also rose to a record high, with a 0.25 per cent gain in 2006. Levels are 320 parts per billion, 19 per cent above pre- industrial levels.

"Atmospheric growth rates in 2006 of these gases are consistent with recent years," the WMO said in a report. Rising levels could disrupt the climate, producing more heatwaves, floods, droughts and rising ocean levels.

But levels of methane, which comes from sources such as rotting vegetation in landfills, termites, rice paddies and the digestive process of cows, dipped 0.06 per cent to 1,782 parts per billion in 2006.

"Methane levels have been flattening out in recent years," said Geir Braathen, the WMO's senior scientific officer. However, methane levels are 155 per cent higher than before the Industrial Revolution.

"A widespread melt of Siberian permafrost is a possibility, but there is no sign of it in this data," he said, referring to some scientists' fears that frozen methane in the permafrost could be released by rising temperatures and accelerate warming.

Mr Braathen also said the relative importance of was increasing, contributing 91 per cent of the total heating effect of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere in the past five years, from 87 per cent in the past decade
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