Johannes Feddema, Professor and Chair of Climatology at UVic calls the situation “unprecedented” in human history. (Don Bodger/Peninsula News Review File)

Carbon dioxide at highest levels for over 2.5 million years, expert warns of 100 years of disruption

CO2 levels rising rapidly, now higher than at any point in humanity’s history

Researchers have announced that the concentration of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere is now at levels not seen for at least 2.5 million years.

We can all now claim part of the dubious honour of living in a time no other humans have ever experienced.

ALSO READ: Top 10 Climate Change myths debunked

Carbon dioxide levels recorded at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii hit 415 parts per million (ppm) last week. This is more than 100 ppm higher than at any time in the 800,000 years of data scientists have access to on world carbon dioxide concentrations. For perspective, the last time these levels hit 300ppm, humans didn’t exist.

Scientists say while the earth has gone through periods of cooling and warming in the past, these events have taken a very long time to occur. For nearly a million years carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have been, on average, 280 ppm, not rising above 300 ppm or dipping below 160 ppm. In the past, global warming has happened gradually over thousand-year periods, while the latest human-caused warming event is happening over just a couple of centuries.

Johannes Feddema, professor and chair of climatology at UVic, says the rate of temperature change is alarming, but unfortunately not unexpected. He says over the 18,000 years from the Ice Age to 1900, the rate of temperature change was 0.036. During the 100-year period from 1900 to 2000, the temperature change was 0.7 – a 20-fold increase. And worryingly, Feddema says over the last 20 years, “We have almost matched that 100-year record in increase, in CO2.”

Ice cores from the Antarctic ice sheet preserve snapshots of how much greenhouse gas was in the atmosphere over hundreds of thousands of years. Readings taken from them show a dramatic increase in carbon dioxide levels at the start of the Industrial Revolution.

Over the past 10 years, the level of CO2 in the atmosphere has risen by an average of 2.5 ppm every year, hitting 400 ppm in 2013.

“It’s unprecedented, as far as human history is concerned. We’ve never seen this before,” says Feddema.

“However, from a climate science point of view this is absolutely not unexpected. What is disconcerting is that despite all the discussions we’ve had, Paris, Copenhagen, etc. [United Nations climate talks], we’re not slowing down at all and we’re on a trajectory some call business as usual, but worse. We haven’t really made any dents about doing something about this.”

ALSO READ: Slaying dragons: getting inside the minds of climate change skeptics

So why we aren’t we seeing catastrophic effects yet? Feddema makes an analogy linking the earth, covered in oceans, to a pot of water boiling on a stove. It might take a while to get going but once it starts boiling it is difficult to stop, even after turning off the heat.

“We have a certain momentum going here that even if we manage to do everything right, things are going to continue to change for a while. And a while being in the order of a hundred years.”



nick.murray@peninsulanewsreview.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

‘I felt betrayed’: North-Okanagan Shuswap NDP candidate responds to Trudeau brownface photo

Harwinder Sandhu dismisses comments that there are bigger issues to focus on

Vehicle thefts prompt plea from Salmon Arm RCMP

Public asked to help by removing valuables and keys, locking vehicles up

Shuswap Theatre reduces barriers with inclusive opening of Wizard of Oz

Relaxed conventions open experience to people with autism, dementia, sensory disorders

Lego robotics to woodworking 101 at Salmon Arm’s Innovation Centre

Experienced Shuswap instructors share their passions through educational programs

Selfie station provides colourful backdrop to photogenic Salmon Arm building

Innovation Centre photo attraction is expected to be complete by the end of September

VIDEO: Trudeau asks Canada to look to current, not past, actions on race

Liberal leader says he never spoke about the racist photo because he was embarrassed

John Horgan promises action after fatal mid-Island bus crash

Premier cites students, local Indigneous community as reason to repair the road

On this day 126 years ago New Zealand women granted right to vote

New Zealand women beat Canadians to the polls by 26 years

Provincial Mobile Medical Unit makes an appearance in Kelowna

The high tech hospital on wheels provides medical care for rural communities and during emergencies

B.C. health minister announces urgent care center for Central Okanagan residents

The Kelowna-based health centre will support about 63,000 patient visits per year

EDITORIAL: Past actions haunt candidates

Justin Trudeau and Andrew Scheer dogged by incidents from earlier years

How to get that Spark Joy feeling

Barb and Wendy at Simply Spark Joy help you to create a clutter free home on the Black Press Media

Teens charged in stabbing death of B.C. man in strip mall parking lot

Two youths, aged 15 and 16, charged in Aug. 16 killing of South Surrey’s Paul Prestbakmo

B.C. Premier John Horgan worried about ‘rise of racism’

Asked to comment on Justin Trudeau’s ‘blackface’ incidents

Most Read