Carbon Dioxide Levels Reach 3 Million Year High

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Mankind seems to be in no mood to stop destroying the planet and after several millennia of pollution and decay, the levels of Carbon dioxide – the gas most heavily responsible for global warming – have reached a 3 million years high. If that does not shake you, then here is a description of what the Earth was like at that time:

Sea levels at that time were about 65 feet higher than now. Greenland was actually green instead of being white, and Antarctica had trees.

What’s worse than this result is that this gas isn’t acting alone, and the slowly yet steadily rising levels of Methane in the atmosphere are an equally powerful cause behind global temperature rise.

Some Geological Information

Right now, the geological period we live in is called the Quaternary, and it started three million years ago. With climatic conditions much more stable at that time, it wasn’t about 11,000 years ago that human life actually started. The fact that in just 11,000 years, we have managed to spike our environment with enough poison to match 30,000 millennia speaks for itself. The study which came to this conclusion was headed by Matteo Willeit of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. In a response to the study’s results, Willeit said:

“It seems we’re now pushing our home planet beyond any climatic conditions experienced during the entire current geological period, the Quaternary, A period that started almost 3 million years ago and saw human civilization beginning only 11,000 years ago. So, the modern climate change we see is big, really big; even by standards of Earth history.”
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Initially, the data from today’s atmosphere was compared to computer simulations of the past. However, later on, when Willeit and his team collected hard data from the deep sea, it matched the computer simulations. With human activities as the central cause of Carbon dioxide emissions, its current concentration in the atmosphere is approximately 410 parts per million. To put this number into perspective,¬†even trace amounts of this gas in the atmosphere can raise temperatures around the world as easily as flipping a coin.

Why the fuss about Carbon dioxide?

According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, global temperatures over the past twenty years have increased by almost 17°C, which is just 8 degrees below the temperature considered as normal room temperature. While there are several greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, Carbon dioxide is a major source of problems due to its relatively higher concentration of ~2.5% in the atmosphere, and the fact that it is responsible for 63% of all global warming which has been attributed to greenhouse gases. It is colourless, invisible, and odourless, but it still packs a bigger punch than any other greenhouse gas we know of.

It is worth noting that all the nations of the world except for the United States is a part of the Paris Climate Agreement which aims to reduce humanity’s contribution towards global warming through reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. However, just the signatures of a few leaders on a piece of paper no longer seems to be an effective and viable solution to this eventually fatal problem, and it is up to the common man now to start acting towards a more sustainable tomorrow. If left to itself today, the whole atmosphere is going to come crashing down on the Earth one day and there won’t be a planet left to save!

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Mohammad Yasir
Mohammad Yasir is a Physics Honors student at the University of Delhi. When he is not busy enjoying his passion for the subject, he likes to indulge in creative writing and photography.

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