Attention all climate change deniers — the level of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere is at an all-time high, the highest in 800,000 years according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
“Rapidly increasing atmospheric levels of CO2 and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) have the potential to initiate unpredictable changes in the climate system, because of strong positive feedbacks, leading to severe ecological and economic disruptions,” the WMO Greenhouse Gas Bulletin read.
Some of the factors that influenced the level of carbon dioxide is population growth, intensified agricultural practices, deforestation and land use, industrialization, and energy use from fossil fuels. A strong El Nino in 2015 and 2016 was also a strong contributor as it reduced the capacity of forests and oceans to absorb the gas.
Carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for hundreds of years, which means as levels increase, it becomes progressively more difficult to reduce them.
“Without rapid cuts in CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions, we will be heading for dangerous temperature increases by the end of this century, well above the target set by the Paris climate change agreement,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas. “Future generations will inherit a much more inhospitable planet.”
The last time the Earth had a similar concentration of carbon dioxide was three to five million years ago.
The conclusion of this report reaffirms what scientists have been saying for years. Climate change is drastically affecting people’s lives and it will only continue to get worse if society doesn’t stand up and do something about it.
Many developing and developed countries have pledged to help reduce greenhouse gasses, but progress is too slow to make a real difference.
The Paris Climate Change Agreement was signed by 196 countries in December 2015 with the goal of lowering “the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.” The United States withdrew from the agreement in June 2017.
The commitments made under the Paris Agreement — Canada promised to reduce emissions to 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 and provincial support for cap and trade programs — will be impossible to reach if the world doesn’t act now. Sustainable development and the investment in renewable energy despite political and bureaucratic ties have never been more important.
“We are still emitting far too much and this needs to be reversed. The last few years have seen enormous uptake of renewable energy, but we must now redouble our efforts to ensure these new low-carbon technologies are able to thrive,” said Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment.
What does this mean? Government’s need to stop thinking about the cost of sustainable and carbon-free technologies and start to actually implement their plans. Every day citizens can also contribute by investing in renewable energy and green retrofits on their homes. If that seems like too much, start small by taking transit, reducing waste, and using reusable containers in your lunch.
It’s probably too late to make a difference for 2017, but if everyone aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, hopefully the Earth can be saved from an excruciating death.