In climate news, people for some reason continue to debate whether the warming that we’re seeing today comes from human action or some sort of natural cycle. This study should help put that question to bed.
An ice core about two miles long — the oldest frozen sample ever drilled from the underbelly of Antarctica — shows that at no time in the last 650,000 years have levels of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane been as high as they are today.
The research, published in today’s issue of the journal Science, describes the content of the greenhouse gases within the core and shows that carbon dioxide levels today are 27% higher than they have been in the last 650,000 years and levels of methane, an even more powerful greenhouse gas, are 130% higher, said Thomas Stocker, a climate researcher at the University of Bern and senior member of the European team that wrote two papers based on the core.
Several ice ages have come and gone in the time span covered by this ice core. I thought that I’d gotten pretty jaded about climate, but these numbers still make me nervous. If we have greenhouse gases significantly above anything in the last 650,000 years then it stands to reason that we’ve set in motion changes that haven’t happened in that time span. I don’t know what they will be but I can say with certainty that humanity doesn’t benefit from that sort of change. Civilization flourished because we had a comfortable niche of climate stability for the last 10,000 years or so, and despite all of our advances we still depend on that niche. You can’t mine food.