Oct. 30 (UPI) -- Atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations set new records in 2016. According to a new report by the World Meteorological Organization, CO2 levels reached 403.3 parts per million in 2016, up from a high of 400 ppm in 2015.
An increase in atmospheric CO2 levels isn't new, but last year's rise was 50 percent larger than the average increase during the last decade. The dramatic increase was caused by a combination of human activities and an especially strong El Niño climate pattern.
"It is the largest increase we have ever seen in the 30 years we have had this network," Oksana Tarasova, head of WMO's global atmosphere watch program, told BBC News.
Though growth of global CO2 emissions have slowed in recent years, carbon dioxide continues to build up in Earth's atmosphere, increasing the greenhouse gas effect and contributing to the increase in global temperatures.
Carbon dioxide concentrations have been steadily increasing for the entirety of the last century. The latest WMO report claims population growth, the expansion of agriculture, land-use changes, deforestation and industrialization explain why today's CO2 levels are 145 percent of pre-industrial levels.
"Without rapid cuts in CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions, we will be heading for dangerous temperature increases by the end of this century, well above the target set by the Paris climate change agreement," WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said in a news release. "Future generations will inherit a much more inhospitable planet."
Scientists suggest increases in CO2 will have a more immediate impact on Earth's climate than in previous eras.
"The changes will not take ten thousand years like they used to take before, they will happen fast -- we don't have the knowledge of the system in this state, that is a bit worrisome!" Tarasova said.
The latest report suggests more aggressive action will be necessary to meet the emissions and warming targets set by the Paris climate agreement.
"The numbers don't lie. We are still emitting far too much and this needs to be reversed," said Erik Solheim, head of the UN Environment. "We have many of the solutions already to address this challenge. What we need now is global political will and a new sense of urgency."