Carbon dioxide levels could have devastating consequences for civilization
Global emissions continued to soar unchecked, in spite of scientist's warnings
The concentration of climate-warming carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has passed the milestone level of 400 parts per million. This milestone has ominous implications for humanity and civilization, as the last time this was true, the Arctic was ice-free, savannah spread across the Sahara desert and sea level was up to 40 meters higher than today.
This level of carbon dioxide has not been seen on Earth for three to five million years, a period called the Pliocene. At that time, global average temperatures were 3 or 4C higher than today's and 8C warmer at the poles.
"The passing of this milestone is a significant reminder of the rapid rate at which - and the extent to which - we have increased the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere," Professor Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says. "At the beginning of industrialization the concentration of CO2 was just 280 ppm. We must hope that the world crossing this milestone will bring about awareness of the scientific reality of climate change and how human society should deal with the challenge."
Many believe that the level beyond which catastrophic warming is thought to become unstoppable has already been reached. The International Energy Agency warned in 2012 that on current emissions trends the world will see 6C of warming, a level scientists warn would lead to chaos. "This isn't just a symbolic milestone; it's yet another piece of clear scientific evidence of the effect human activity is having on our planet," Edward Davey, the U.K.'s energy and climate change secretary says. "I've made clear I will not let up on efforts to secure the legally binding deal the world needs by 2015 to avoid the worst effects of climate change."
Data released last week proved the daily average has passed 400 ppm for the first time in its half century of recording. The level peaks in May each year as the CO2 released by decaying vegetation is taken up by renewed plant growth in the northern hemisphere, where the bulk of plants grow.
This level has not been seen on Earth for three to five million years, a period called the Pliocene. At that time, global average temperatures were 3 or 4C higher than today's and 8C warmer at the poles. Reef corals suffered a major extinction while forests grew up to the northern edge of the Arctic Ocean, a region which is today bare tundra.
With the rapid acceleration of CO2, perhaps 75 times faster than in pre-industrial time has never been seen in geological records and some effects of climate change are already being seen. Recent wet and cold summer weather in Europe has been linked to changes in the high level jet stream winds.
"We are creating a prehistoric climate in which human societies will face huge and potentially catastrophic risks," Bob Ward, policy director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change at the London School of Economics says. "Only by urgently reducing global emissions will we be able to avoid the full consequences of turning back the climate clock by 3 million years."
© 2013, Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for December 2013
General Intention: Victimized Children. That children who are victims of abandonment or violence may find the love and protection they need.
Missionary Intention: Prepare the Savior's Coming. That Christians, enlightened by the Word incarnate, may prepare humanity for the Savior's coming.
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