Atmospheric carbon dioxide rises to 400 parts per million for the first time in human history – ‘We are creating a prehistoric climate in which human societies face huge and potentially catastrophic risks’Posted by Jim at Friday, May 10, 2013
By Kerry Sheridan
10 May 2013
WASHINGTON (AFP) – The level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has broken above 400 parts per million for the first time in human history, US monitors announced Friday, indicating a record level for greenhouse gases.
Climate scientists say that the symbolic threshold should serve as a call for action to begin reversing the damage caused to the environment by human activities and heavy use of polluting fossil fuels.
The Earth has not seen these levels of CO2 in millions of years, long before humans existed, said Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at London School of Economics and Political Science.
"We are creating a prehistoric climate in which human societies will face huge and potentially catastrophic risks," said Ward. […]
Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State, said the main concern is the speed with which the concentrations of CO2 are rising.
"There is no precedent in Earth's history for such an abrupt increase in greenhouse gas concentrations," Mann, who has authored two books on climate change, told AFP.
"While living things can adapt to slow changes that took place over tens of millions of years, there is no reason to believe that they -- and we -- can adapt to changes that are a million years faster than the natural background rates of change."
Mann said the last time scientists are confident that CO2 was sustained at the current levels was more than 10 million years ago, during the middle of the Miocene Period.
Back then, global temperatures were hotter, ice was sparse, and sea level was dozens of meters higher than it is today.
"It took nature hundreds of millions of years to change CO2 concentrations through natural processes such as natural carbon burial and volcanic outgassing," Mann said.
"What we are doing is unburying it. But not over 100 million years. We're unburying it and burning it over a timescale of 100 years, a million times faster." [more]