An unprecedented level of carbon dioxide (CO2) currently dominates the atmosphere that is not only alarming but highest for the first time in three million years. For the first time, a team of scientists have effectively simulated a computer that matches ocean floor residue to climate change.
“We know from seabed sediment analysis about previous ocean temperatures and ice volumes, but so far the role of carbon dioxide in the formation of ice courses has not changed,” says Matthew Willeitt of the Potsdam Institute. Climate Impact Research, author of the main study titled, Mid-Pleistocene transition in glacial cycles explained by declining CO2 and regolith removal.
Variations in CO2 levels drove the Ice Age
The study also revealed that the beginning of ice age, was mainly due to low levels of carbon dioxide. However, it is the increase of greenhouse gases, possibly due to the burning of fossil fuels that fundamentally changed our planet, the analysis confirmed.
The global average temperature has never exceeded pre-industrial levels by more than 2°C over the past 3 million years, while the current failure of climate policy will exceed the limit of two degrees in the next 50 years. The study also shows that along with the Earth’s orbit, CO2 emissions also plays a vital role in directing ice ages.
The study also looked into changes in sediment distribution of the Earth surface, since ice sheets slide more easily on gravel than on bedrock. It has also accounted for the role of atmospheric dust, which makes the ice surface darker and thereby contributes to digestion.
Why is the situation worrisome?
Studying Earth’s past is key to understanding its future evolution. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a well-known greenhouse gas, which, in the atmosphere, contributes to planetary warming. The results are pretty extreme because the last time CO2 levels were this high, there were beech trees growing at the South Pole.
So then, why aren’t we seeing more brutal effects?
It takes time for these changes to take effect. Much of the CO2 emissions we are seeing into the atmosphere today were emitted in the past century — which, in geological terms, is the blink of an eye. It will take some time before today’s temperatures rise accordingly, but the chain of events has already been set in motion and, like all planetary processes, any inactivity towards this warming is enormous.
We are clearly seeing the first stages of this process, though. All temperature measurements show a steady increase which correlates with the extra CO2 observed in the atmosphere, and there is overwhelming evidence showing that the planet is warming up incredibly fast. Meanwhile, at current emission rates the planet’s climate would move beyond that 2 degrees Celsius limit within half a century.
These findings by the researchers are in with results from numerous of other studies that indicate that the CO2 emissions may well be pushing the planet’s climate beyond a point of no return with disastrous significances for life on Earth as we know it.
In 2015, most of the countries experienced temperatures above average and unless global emissions are reduced significantly, the trend is likely to continue.