Some have said, about climate change, that it is something “their grandkids might suffer from.”
The problem is that, since the beginning of the Industrial Age, basically mankind’s mass-application of fossil fuels, so much carbon dioxide (CO2) has been pumped into the atmosphere that it is affecting every part of our lives. Climate change, maybe for those who started the Industrial Revolution, was a non-entity, for who could imaging that simply burning fossil fuels could have such an impact? Interestingly, about the same time of the Industrial Revolution, 19th Century physicist John Tyndall suggested that changes in atmospheric CO2 concentration might change the climate.
Far from being future, however, in the last 220-odd years, climate change brought on by our manipulation of atmospheric CO2 is a reality that some are ignoring. Climate change may reach critical mass by 2036, but we’re in the beginning of it right now. Where’s the proof? First, around 220 years ago, atmospheric CO2, measured in ice cores, was around 290 ppm (parts per million). By 2013, CO2 concentrations had breached 400 ppm. According to ice core data, covering the last 800,000 years, CO2 concentrations have never been this high. The last peak, in fact, was about 120,000 years ago, before humans existed, and was still less than 300 ppm.
Strictly looking at global temperature changes, as reported by the National Climate Assessment, every decade since the 1930s has been warmer than the last. At first, the temperature changes were subtle, just barely over normal (>n) in the 1940s and 1950s. As atmospheric CO2 concentrations continued to increase, in the 1960s, temperatures climbed to about 0.08 °C >n and, in the 1970s, climbed to about 0.13 °C >n. In the 1980s, temperatures jumped to about 0.43 °C >n, only to be beaten by 1990s’ 0.71 °C >n, and again in the 2000s, breaking 1.05 °C >n.
Unfortunately, it’s already too late to do anything about climate change, even if we eliminate greenhouse gas emissions now. The best we can do is come up with methods to survive the coming catastrophe.
Image © National Climate Assessment