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Carbon emissions
Image: Ian Britton

The global carbonisation experiment gathers pace

For all of the talk about emissions reduction, we are now adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere ten times faster than at any time in at least 66 million years according to new research in the journal Nature Geoscience:

“Given currently available palaeorecords, we conclude that the present anthropogenic carbon release rate (∼10 Pg C yr−1) is unprecedented during the Cenozoic (past 66 Myr). Possible known consequences of the rapid man-made carbon emissions have been extensively discussed elsewhere.  Regarding impacts on ecosystems, the present/future rate of climate change and ocean acidification is too fast for many species to adapt, which is likely to result in widespread future extinctions in marine and terrestrial environments.”

The researchers argue that because this rate is unprecedented, current climate models no longer have a reference point in the past on which to base comparisons.  In this sense, our continued insistence on pumping carbon into the atmosphere really is an experiment.  We cannot know or even guess the outcome in advance.  But we can be sure that the consequences are going to be unpleasant.

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