Saturday, July 20, 2024

‘Earth’s Greenhouse Gas Levels Comparable to Pliocene Era’


The atmospheric conditions on Earth 4.3 million years ago during the mid-Pliocene epoch were quite different from what they are today. However, one similarity between that time and now is the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

A recent report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration revealed that the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere today is comparable to levels seen during the mid-Pliocene epoch. This period was characterized by sea levels that were 75 feet higher than they are now, temperatures that were 7 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than pre-industrial times, and large forests in the Arctic that have since turned into tundra.

Despite being an era of global cooling, the Pliocene had a much warmer climate than what we experience today. The mid-Pliocene phase was particularly warm, which is significant given the current trends in carbon dioxide concentrations.

Throughout 2023, there was a steady increase in the surface concentration of carbon dioxide, with a rise of 2.8 parts per million over the previous year. This marked the 12th consecutive year with an increase of over 2 parts per million, contributing to the highest sustained rate of carbon dioxide increases in the monitoring record.

The rise in carbon dioxide levels is largely attributed to ongoing fossil fuel emissions and increased fire emissions, potentially influenced by the shift from La Nina to El Nino weather patterns, according to Xin Lan, a scientist at the NOAA.

Carbon dioxide is a major greenhouse gas that plays a significant role in trapping heat in the Earth’s atmosphere, leading to global warming. Other greenhouse gases like methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorinated gases also contribute to climate change.

Of all the greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide remains the biggest driver of climate change, with human-caused emissions reaching a record 36.8 billion tons per year in recent times.

Researchers are actively seeking solutions to mitigate the impact of rising carbon dioxide levels. Richard Conant, a soil biogeochemist at Colorado State University, is exploring biotransformative carbon dioxide removal as a potential solution. This innovative approach involves developing decomposition-resistant compounds in plants to consume carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, offering a promising pathway towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

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