As atmospheric carbon levels have officially permanently crossed the upper limit of 400 parts per million, it won’t be presumptuous to say that end of the world is approaching. Based on weekly observations of carbon dioxide at Hawaii’s Mauna Loa Observatory, where CO2 levels have been measured by climate scientists since 1958, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography reported that “it already seems safe to conclude that we won’t be seeing a monthly value below 400 ppm this year—or ever again for the indefinite future.”
The thing is we have been warned by scientist that the 400 ppm is the upper limit, which, if crossed, would have serious repercussions on the planet.
The first region to cross the red line was the Arctic in 2012. However, it’s the first time since carbon levels have been recorded that they remained over 400 ppm for an entire month.
In expert opinion, this is cul-de-sac situation owing to the cyclical effects of Mauna Loa’s CO2 curve. Normally, carbon levels reach a low point once a year, usually towards the end of September, but this year, the numbers are around 401ppm. It’s possible that 2016’s lowest carbon levels haven’t been measured yet, but, according to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, this is “almost impossible.”
The only silver lining is that these high numbers are a serious call for action. For one thing, the Paris Agreement, which is an international convention for fighting climate change and its effects, has stipulated some firm goals directly linked to reducing carbon levels. The countries that sign the agreement are bound to keep global average temperatures below 1.5°C pre-industrial levels. In order to do so, the countries will reduce emissions as well as impose clean energy mandates. But, the agreement is only signed by 60 countries, which account for 47.76% of the world’s carbon emissions.
Some lasting effects of climate change include:
Scientific estimations show that extinction rates have increased 1,000 times before the appearance of modern Homo sapiens. According to the World Wildlife Fund, it’s very likely that 10,000 species could disappear every year. And, the Nature Conservancy indicated that climate change could wipe out one fourth of Earth’s species by 2050.
Food chain disruption
Closely linked to extinction, food chains will also be thrown out of balance as predators and their prey become extinct. For one thing, rising ocean temperatures seriously affect the growth of sea algae, which, consequently deprives populations of zooplankton, cod, seals, and polar bears of vital nutrients. Also, a 7°F rise of average winter temperatures has been recorded throughout Alaska and western Canada over the last 50 years.
Rising sea levels
Sea level changes will inevitably affect humans in the near future as well. Communities will become displaced as coastlines are affected with floods resulting from melting of ancient glaciers and thermal expansion. It’s estimated that by 2100, nearly 13 million people in the US will lose their homes as a result of rising sea levels. And, this has already become a reality in some parts of the world, including the Pacific Ocean. What’s even worse is that even if global average temperatures are prevented from rising above 2°C, previous sea level changes could be permanent, according to scientists.
Ocean acidification and coral bleaching
Ocean acidity, which is regarded as a key barometer of environmental health, is already eradicating whole sea ecosystems. Water in the oceans acidifies as a result of the excess CO2 that the oceans continually absorb, causing their pH to decline. The rise of water temperatures causes vast expanses of life-sustaining coral, such as Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, to die out, and, according to scientists, coral bleaching will have permanent effects on marine ecosystems.