WASHINGTON, Sept. 9 (UPI) -- New figures from the United Nations suggest carbon dioxide levels in the Earth's atmosphere are rising faster than they have in the last 20 years. The news has apparently surprised scientists, and suggests the so-called global warming "slowdown" could be short-lived.
Less surprising is the news that concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere reached record levels in 2013. Average atmospheric CO2 levels in 2013 sat just below 400 parts per million -- a concentration roughly 40 percent higher than pre-industrial times. The new data is the annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin compiled by the World Meteorological Organization, the U.N.'s meteorological advisory body.
But most alarming is that CO2 levels are rising faster than they have since 1984 -- suggesting the Earth's climatic systems are overburdened.
"If the oceans and the biosphere cannot absorb as much carbon, the effect on the atmosphere could be much worse," Oksana Tarasova, a climate scientist with WMO's Global Atmospheric Watch program, told the Washington Post.
The report arrives just ahead of the U.N. General Assembly meetings scheduled for later this month in New York. Obama is expected to take the opportunity to meet with other world leaders and discuss strategies for lowering global greenhouse gas emissions.
"We know without any doubt that our climate is changing and our weather is becoming more extreme due to human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels," WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said in a news release.
"The Greenhouse Gas Bulletin shows that, far from falling, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere actually increased last year at the fastest rate for nearly 30 years," Jarraud added. "We must reverse this trend by cutting emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases across the board. We are running out of time."