Azara Blog: High levels of CO2 in the atmosphere

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Date published: 2005/11/25

The BBC says:

Current levels of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere are higher now than at any time in the last 650,000 years.

That is the conclusion of new European studies looking at ice taken from 3km below the surface of Antarctica.

The scientists say their research shows present day warming to be exceptional.

Other research, also published in the journal Science, suggests that sea levels may be rising twice as fast now as in previous centuries.

The evidence on atmospheric concentrations comes from an Antarctic region called Dome Concordia (Dome C).

Over a five year period commencing in 1999, scientists working with the European Project for Ice Coring in Antarctica (Epica) have drilled 3,270m into the Dome C ice, which equates to drilling nearly 900,000 years back in time.

Gas bubbles trapped as the ice formed yield important evidence of the mixture of gases present in the atmosphere at that time, and of temperature.

"One of the most important things is we can put current levels of carbon dioxide and methane into a long-term context," said project leader Thomas Stocker from the University of Bern, Switzerland.

"We find that CO2 is about 30% higher than at any time, and methane 130% higher than at any time; and the rates of increase are absolutely exceptional: for CO2, 200 times faster than at any time in the last 650,000 years."
"The main thing that's changed since the 19th Century and the beginning of modern observation has been the widespread increase in fossil fuel use and more greenhouse gases," said Kenneth Miller from Rutgers University.

Well, the planet Earth has been around for several billion years, so half a dozen hundred thousand years is a short time scale. So the word "exceptional" has to be taken in context. But it is interesting data. Everybody (well nearly everybody) believes that the high (and increasing) CO2 level is because of human activity. But the real question is what to do about it, and whether the various proposed "solutions" are worse than the "problem". What the world really needs is a (human) population crash, but of course nobody wants to volunteer.

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