Tuesday, November 24, 2015
Global atmospheric CO2 now higher than 400ppm for the first time in millions of years
As you know, carbon dioxide is the greatest contributing factor to the global climate change. Created through human fossil-fuel emissions, it traps heat in the atmosphere and slowly warms the globe. Of course, we're no strangers to this ongoing environmental debate that has been raging on for decades and affected millions of people all around the world. But what exactly is the significance of this 400ppm mark that we've now passed?
Putting it into perspective, the last time the planet has experienced such CO2 levels has been at least a million years ago, according to Bloomberg. This is the extreme low end of the scientific estimates; Scientific American says 23 million years ago, NASA climate Carmen Boening says 2.5-5.3 million years ago, her colleague Charles Miller says it has been nearly 25 million years since the Earth has crossed the 400ppm thresh-hold. However, one might argue that since the world is experiencing the strongest El Nino since 1997, the side effects of the extreme weather may naturally cause more CO2 emissions than normal through wildfires, etc. Climatologist Keeling partially supports this claim, saying that "the loss of CO2 from tropical forests in El Nino years is temporary as the forests tend to regrow in normal years, building back their biomass and sucking CO2 out of the air in the process", however, "the eventual recovery from this El Nino won't bring us below 400ppm, because its impact will be dwarfed by the global consumption of fossil fuels, pushing CO2 levels even higher."
At any rate, this is simply another major climate milestone added to the growing list of environmental issues before the planned Nov. 30 - Dec. 15th UN climate talks in Paris. It follows the reports that 2015 will be the hottest year ever recorded, with temperatures more than one degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels - exactly halfway to the "two-degree benchmark" that global governments promised not to exceed. (the 2 degree Celsius was approved by nearly government in the world as of 2009).
The undeniable truth is that humans have never seen CO2 concentrations this high. This is uncharted territory, and that's what makes it so scary. No matter how many studies we conduct or how many reports we create, it's clear that there needs to be some sort of change in human consumption of fossil fuels and unsustainable business practices if we are to, 1) avoid crossing our self-set 2 degree benchmark, and 2) avoid the continuing trend of drastic global climate change that could lead to potentially cataclysmic results in our lifetime. We can only hope that the upcoming UN climate talks will address these issues seriously and work towards environmental and fossil fuel policy reform.
What do you think needs to be done to combat the growing issue of climate change? Are these statistic in-fact all blown out of proportion and humans don't have anything serious to fear? With all of the other issues in recent history, such as the ISIS attacks/terrorism, is climate change even an issue that's worth prioritizing on the global agenda?