BONN - The secretary of the UN's paramount environment accord warned that climate-altering pollution emitted by burning oil, gas and coal was now growing at "an alarmingly rapid" rate.
"Recent news about a disintegrating Arctic ice cap and the increased frequency of extreme weather events and associated damage have added to the sense of urgency" about climate change, Joke Waller-Hunter, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said here.
"Also worrying are the latest measures of the alarmingly rapid growth in atmospheric CO2 (carbon dioxide) concentrations," she said.
Waller-Hunter referred to measurements made by US scientists at Mauna Loa, Hawaii.
She said CO2 was recorded there in March at 379 parts per million (ppm), "well above the 280 ppm of pre-industrial times and with a three ppm increase from the year before."
That three-ppm year-on-year increase compares with an average annual growth of 1.8 ppm over the past decade, Waller-Hunter said.
Climate expert Jennifer Morgan, with the environmentalist group WWF, said the recorded increase was extraordinary. "That's scary," she told AFP.
CO2 is by far the most important of the six "greenhouse" gases blamed for driving changes to the world's delicate climate system.
These gases hang like an invisible shroud in the atmosphere, trapping the Sun's heat and driving up the temperature of the Earth's land and sea, inflicting what scientists say are potentially catastrophic changes to icecaps, glaciers and rainfall patterns.
The UNFCCC is the parent treaty of the Kyoto Protocol, which aims to trim output of fossil gases.
Kyoto, signed in 1997, remains in limbo however.
The United States, the biggest carbon polluter, has walked away from it and Russia is dragging its feet about ratifying the accord, a move that would push the deal over a legal threshold and make it an international treaty.
Waller-Hunter made the remarks at the final day of a four-day international conference on solar, wind and other renewable energies in Bonn.
She said renewables could play a "central role" in combating climate change.
"On average, about 2.3 tonnes of CO2 are released per tonne of oil equivalent supplied. This means that the (share) of 14 percent in the world's energy supply help us avoid the emission of more than three billion tonnes of CO2 every year."
The 14 percent comprises wind, solar, hydro and geothermal energy, together with waste and "combustible renewables."
That category includes wood, which is widely used for heating and cooking in poor countries, and while fuel-inefficient is relatively low in CO2 emissions.
© Copyright 2004 AFP