New deal needed

"Based on our knowledge of recent trends and the time it takes to change energy infrastructure, I think that the Copenhagen conference next month is our last chance to stabilise at 2C in a smooth and organised way," said Professor Corinne Le Quere, lead scientist of the Global Carbon Project (GCP), which uses just about every source of data available to build up a detailed picture of CO2 emissions.

According to the GCP, , emissions rose by 29% between 2000 and 2008. Before 2002, the rate of increase was about 1% per year, rising to about 3% due mainly to a rise in China's economic output. All of the growth came in developing nations, but a quarter of it was for production of goods for industrialised countries.

"If the agreement is too weak or if the commitments are not respected, it's not two and a half or three degrees that we will get, it's five or six - that's the path that we are on right now," warned Professor Le Quere.

Richard Betts, head of climate impacts at the UK Met Office, agreed. "If we want to be staying below 2C then it's true to say we've only got a few years to curb emissions," he said.

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