Scientists predict that within a century or two, the Earth will be at its highest temperature in over 400 million years. That is, unless the current warming trend reverses course.
The study, completed by scientists in Universities all over the world including the University of Southampton in England, the University of Bristol in England, and Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. It was published in April’s edition of the Nature Communications journal.
The scientists’ conclusion follows years of studying global warming rates and fossil fuel usage across the world. Researchers believe that if consumers use up all available fossil fuels, the atmosphere’s carbon dioxide level would reach a density not seen for 200 million years.
While the atmosphere’s carbon dioxide levels have always varied, within the past 150 years it has increased dramatically. Before the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century, the CO2 level in the atmosphere was around 280 parts per million. In 2016, this grew to 405 parts per million. But if fossil fuel consumption doesn’t slow down, the researchers believe this rate could potentially reach 2,000 parts per million come 2250.
This intense increase in gasses in the atmosphere will prevent heat from escaping (known as the greenhouse effect), which could destroy our climate and make it impossible for human survival.
Already, a full two-thirds of homes in the United States rely on air conditioners, but a CO2 level of 2,000 parts per million would likely cause temperature increases that no amount of air conditioning could make tolerable.
Researchers believe sunlight is a huge factor as well. Nowadays, more light is being let into the atmosphere through holes caused by greenhouse gasses, and that extra sunlight exposure further raises the Earth’s overall temperature. Back 400 million years ago, there was less light allowed through the atmosphere and the sun was quite dimmer, so despite the high levels of CO2, the warming wasn’t as severe at the time.
Of course, if humans can break their addiction to fossil fuels by 2250, climate scientists say that temperatures could be kept at comfortable levels.