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The planet is burning up right before our eyes. (Image: CD / cc)

The planet is burning up right before our eyes. (Image: CD / cc)

Humanity's Destruction of Earth's Climate in Ninety Seconds

Data visualization that compresses thousands of years of historic atmospheric data presents frightening prospects for humanity's future

Jon Queally

As carbon emissions concentrate in the atmosphere, the planet is burning up... and fast.

That is the well-known bottom line when it comes to human-caused global warming and climate change. 

Over the course of April, according to the world's premiere atmospheric monitoring station  Mauna Loa, Hawaii, which is run by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the concentration of carbon averaged more than 400 parts per million for the entire month for the first time in human history.

For those looking for a short, visual expression of what that means and looks like, an animation from the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) provides a  ninety-second, jaw-dropping look at the history of these concentrations and the "unparalleled" rise that has occurred over the last several decades:

As Climate Central's Brian Kahn notes, the visualization "makes clear that though there have been variations over time, the current rise is unparalleled."

"Over the course of the past 2,000 years," Kahn continues, "CO2 has stayed roughly around 280 ppm until the Industrial Revolution kickstarted a carbon emissions bonanza, driving levels higher and higher."

Humanity soared past the 350 ppm milestone in 1989 and the pace of increase has only gained momentum since.

According to NOAA’s latest Annual Greenhouse Gas Index (AGGI), released last Friday, the warming influence from human-emitted greenhouse gases continues to increase.

Driven in large part by rising levels of carbon dioxide (CO2), the AGGI showed worldwide increases of 1.5 percent between 2012 and 2013. This means the combined heating effect of human-emitted, long-lived greenhouse gases currently in the atmosphere has increased by 1.5 percent in one year, and 34 percent since 1990.

In other words, despite the consistent and increasingly dire warnings from the scientific community, humanity is making the problem worse not better.

"We continue to turn the dial up on this ‘electric blanket’ of ours without knowing what the resulting temperatures will be,” said James Butler, Ph.D., director of the Global Monitoring Division of NOAA’s Boulder-based Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL). “We know that the world is getting warmer on average because of our continued emissions of heat-trapping gases. Turning down the dial on this heating will become increasingly more difficult as concentrations of the long-lived greenhouse gases continue to rise each year.”


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