London, Oct 23: Humans are pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at an increasingly quicker pace while natural reservoirs such as oceans and trees are soaking up less and less of the greenhouse gas, researchers said.
Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have grown 35 percent faster than expected since 2000 due to increased greenhouse gas emissions in rapidly developing nations and less efficient natural sinks, or reservoirs, they said yesterday.
The findings suggest people are falling behind in efforts to limit global warming and its potential impacts, Corinne Le Quere, a physicist at Britain's University of East Anglia, who worked on the study, said in a telephone interview.
''It means that we are not on the track we thought we were in terms of controlling global warming,'' Le Quere said.
Researchers from the university, the Global Carbon Project and the British Antarctic Survey analysed atmospheric carbon dioxide observations and emissions data since 1959 and compared them with observed and projected trends.
They found that projections made at the end of the 1990s had underestimated the amount of fossil fuel emissions by 4 per cent to 17 per cent, mainly due to fast economic growth in the developing world.
''Richer countries are improving their energy efficiency when it comes to emissions but as developing countries grow they are using more energy from sources like coal, which pushes out more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than oil or other resources,'' Le Quere said.
While increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide were no surprise, the causes and pace of the increase were unexpected, the researchers said in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
A big reason is that natural sinks such as oceans and forests - which typically absorb about half of the emissions sent into the atmosphere each year - are much less efficient due to warming temperatures and related consequences, Le Quere said.
Human emissions of gases such as methane and carbon dioxide that trap heat in the atmosphere are clearly contributing to rising global average temperatures, many experts agree.
Scientists say average global temperatures will rise by 2 to 6 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, which in turn will cause droughts, floods and violent storms.