According to a recent report, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere has risen to a level that was seen about over 3 million years ago, before the human race even appeared on the planet. Sensors at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii indicated on Saturday that the concentration of greenhouse gas, a byproduct formed when fossil fuels are burned, is at 415 parts per million (ppm). This implies that for every 1 million molecules of gas in the atmosphere, 415 are of carbon dioxide.
Carbon Dioxide is capable of trapping the heat coming from the sun, and in higher concentration can increase temperatures and enhance the effects of climate change, including rising seas and weather patterns that are unique. The levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have spiked at an average of 2.5 ppm on an annual basis over the last ten years, making it to 400 ppm in 2013. Ralph Keeling, a geochemist at the Scrips Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California, said, ‘We’re racing toward a state very different from the kind humans evolved in and that civilization developed in.’
The last time that atmospheric carbon dioxide had levels this high was during the Pliocene Epoch, an era that extended from about 5.3 million to 2.6 million years ago. According to Rob Jackson, a professor of earth system science at Stanford University, while speaking about Pliocene Epoch said, ‘Earth was a very different place. You would hardly recognize the land surface, and my gosh, we don’t want to go there.’
However, all of the evidence suggests that we are headed to that grim reality. Keeling has said, ‘At the present pace, we could reach that well within a lot of people’s lifetimes.’ Scientists are busy sounding the alarms over the devastating effect that this will have on our environment. According to Gavin Schmidt who is a climatologist directing NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City, ‘None of these specific numbers are really thresholds in the sense that anything particular happens when we cross them. But as we go through them, we are putting our foot on the accelerator of climate change, and impacts and damage will continue to rise.’
According to Dana Royer, a professor of earth and environmental sciences at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, said, ‘But these impacts are going to persist for a very long time. Once that happens, we can’t really reverse it.’ Jackson further says, ‘We’re not going to see the full consequences of 415 parts per million of carbon dioxide today. It’ll take a thousand years of people — 30 generations of people — to pay the price of what we’re doing today.’