Hate charts and graphs? You are not alone. Many people are still suffering from the dead hand of boring science classes.
However, I dare you to stick with this particular graph. Let’s break it down, step by step.
This graph shows the concentration of CO2 in earth’s atmosphere. You can see it was 280 in 1850. 400 today in 2013. And will be 866 in 2100 if we keep doing what we are doing.
That 280 in 1850 (shown in blue, and show also in blue in 2013 and 2100) is what kept our planet’s temperature just right for the past 10,000 years. All the advances we made in agriculture, in organization, in science, were due to that steady temperature for the past 10,000 years.
Since 1850, we started getting our energy from fossil fuels — coal, oil and natural gas. These concentrated energy sources made possible many advances, but they have had an unintended side effect — they gave off CO2. Lots of it. So much, in fact, that they have changed the temperature of the planet.
We have added 40% more CO2 to that initial 280 by 2013. That’s in red (coral color). And if we keep going, we’ll have added 200% more CO2 by 2100 (in coral color for 2100). Think of this additional coral color as additional “blankets” around earth, trapping heat, warming the planet.
All the effects we are seeing from global warming — the stronger hurricanes, stronger blizzards, more rainfall and flooding, more droughts and wildfires — are from that additional 40% CO2 in 2013. And the coral-colored bar for 2100 is game over. If we continue on our path we will turn the planet into one we don’t recognize.
Here is my main point: it’s hard as hell to get rid of that additional CO2. Let’s say we stopped burning any fossil fuels today. A mammoth undertaking. How long would it take for that coral 40% extra CO2 for 2013 to get back to the original all blue 280 we saw in 1850?
There would still be coral-colored CO2 after 100 years. And there would still be coral-colored CO2 after 1,000 years. We’re stuck with our decisions. If we don’t like the new warmer temperature, it will take a millennium to change that.
The CO2 we create today will last 50 generations.