How Do We Know CO2 is Affecting Our Planet?

In the article, “Climate change: How do we know?”, the author discusses just how prominent of the effects of global warming are today, specifically the effects that CO2 has played in getting us to where we are. The overall warming trend of the planet has been due to the result of human activity over the past years, specifically the increase in the levels of greenhouse gases being released into the environment.

Greenhouse gases are those that are released into the environment and trap the heat radiated by the sun, causing the warming effect that has led to the intense climate change we are experiencing. One of these very effective greenhouse gases is Carbon Dioxide. As shown in the chart attached to this article, CO2 levels, in units of parts per million, have reached new and astonishing levels where our planet is currently. Prior to 1950, the highest the CO2 levels ever reached was around 300 parts/million. However, today levels have reached numbers as high as 400 parts/million.

Everyday effects of global warming have been seen in the global temperature rise, of approximately 1.62 degrees Fahrenheit since the 19th century. In addition, there is the warming oceans, the shrinking ice sheets, the glacial retreat, the decreased snow cover, the rise in sea level, and many others.

Overall, this increase in CO2 levels, along with other greenhouse gases, proves to be resulting in a number of detrimental effects to our planet.

Irreversible Climate Change

In her article, “Irreversible climate change due to carbon dioxide emissions,” Susan Solomon and her colleagues express how the human race has such a large impact on the world’s climate change. The paper focuses on how the effects of increases in carbon dioxide on the atmosphere take around a thousand years to be repaired. Human activities were identified as the most prominent cause of the rise in “atmospheric concentrations of key greenhouse gases.” These increases in greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide, will result in a wider range of damaging and possibly irreversible climate changes.

Solomon highlights how complicated the multi-step process of carbon dioxide atmospheric extraction can be. The process includes “rapid exchange with the land biosphere and the surface layer of the ocean through air-sea exchange.” Typically, 20% of the added tonnes of carbon dioxide stay in the atmosphere while 80% becomes mixed in with the ocean. Ocean warming is just one quantifiable aspect of climate change. Unlike methane or nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide is the only greenhouse gas whose gases persist over time rather than periodic instances. The graphs below display the amount of carbon dioxide that is “expected to be retained in the atmosphere by the end of the millennium.”

These three graphs display carbon dioxide and global mean climate system changes. Results are represented with an 11-yr running mean.

Overall, the main point of Solomon’s article was to highlight how irreversible these small but detrimental gas emissions can be to our climate. Changes in sea levels, changes in precipitation, and changes in atmospheric warming can all be traced back to the increase in CO2 emissions into the atmosphere. Not only are these changes dangerous to the environment, but also play a vital role in the timeline of mankind.