Earth closes in on carbon milestone

Earth may be only 140 years away from reaching carbon levels not seen in around 56 million years, new research from the University of Michigan has found.

The research shows that total human carbon dioxide emissions could soon match those found at the advent of the earth’s last major greenhouse warming event nearly 60 million years ago.

The results show that, if extrapolated, carbon emissions could rise to the total amount of carbon dioxide injected into the atmosphere since humans started burning fossil fuels could equal the amount released during the PETM as soon as 2159.

“You and I won’t be here in 2159, but that’s only about four generations away,” said Philip Gingerich, U-M paleoclimate researcher and author of the study, published Jan. 30 in Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.

Scientists think that during this time and the warm period that followed, the poles were ice-free and the Arctic was home to palm trees and crocodiles.

The study concluded that scientists may not be able to accurately predict the environmental or biological changes that may happen as a result of the rapid carbonisation of the atmosphere because of how quickly the atmosphere is changing.

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