Carbon dioxide, AKA CO2, is responsible for the lion’s share of climate change. A fog of carbon dioxide surrounds the earth — preventing energy from exiting the atmosphere, where it would normally float off into space. Instead this energy becomes radiated heat, which travels back down to Earth and causes the temperature to rise.
The Scripps Institution of Oceanography first reported that atmospheric carbon levels have rocketed past the 400 parts per million (ppm) milestone, and are unlikely to ever return below that measurement again.
CO2 caused by human emissions remained at the same levels throughout 2014 to 2015. But scientists believe that a strong El Niño triggered a spike in emissions, slingshotting us past the 400ppm mark.
This number is significant, because scientists have long warned that once we cross this threshold, we’ve reached a critical stage of global warming.
The last time the Earth’s carbon levels were in this state of disarray, was some 15 to 20 million years ago, and humans have never co-existed with such dangerous atmospheric conditions. Today’s carbon levels are not only the highest ever, but we’ve reached them at a supersonic pace.
The consequences of climate change are all around us; melted glaciers, widespread extinction, devastating natural disasters, and rising oceans. Despite a wealth of evidence concluding that fossil fuels are the smoking gun behind greenhouse gas emissions, it’s still a burden to convince some that climate change exists at all.
Even with a united effort to implement clean energy solutions, it may already be too late to reverse decades of eroding the atmosphere with fossil fuels.
What Does It Mean?
As mentioned before, humanity has never seen such high levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. That said, we know that as the earth gets hotter, we can expect to experience waves of devastation.
Water supplies could vanish for entire regions. We’ve seen catastrophic natural disasters in the last twenty years, but even the most violent hurricanes could feel like baby breath compared to those caused by global warming. As ocean levels rise, this means that regions like Venice in Italy, the Maldives, New York, New Orleans, and Miami will be nothing more than a memory. The Coral Reefs will disappear. Polar bears, and thousands of other species (including us) may also become extinct.
In short: it could be the end of the world, unless we fix it.
Can We Fix It?
It’s unlikely that we can reduce our emissions past the 400 ppm mark, but we can ensure they don’t get any higher. But again, this would mean that the entire world would have to put aside their differences in the name of self-preservation, and take a united stance against climate change. Even with a globalized push towards renewable energy, it might still be too late.
The good news is that Elon Musk is still working on colonizing Mars. We might need it.