Well week eight of my first massive online course is done and dusted. The final theme was looking ahead to what the new geological epoch, the Anthropocene, may deliver in the next thousand years.
Date CO2 in atmosphere Global average temperature. 1050A.D. 280 parts per million. 14°c
2013. 400 parts per million. 15°c
2300. 1,500 parts per million up to 8°c. warmer
Did you know CO2 is a longer lived, more persistent pollutant than radioactive waste? If we continue to burn the known 4,000 billion tonnes of fossil fuels, life will be very uncomfortable for plants and creatures that cannot adapt well to the projected 8° rise that will change the face of the planet. Sea levels may rise by tens of metres, many uncertain factors.
Human population estimates… 300 million in 1000A.D. 500 million in 1500A.D. 790 million in 1750A.D. 7 billion in 2011 A.D. and continues to rise…
Humans have caused dramatic increase in erosion of the land surface and changes in sedimentation through agriculture and construction, also by damming most major rivers. The signal from our chemical and radioactive waste will stretch into the distant future allowing geologists in the future to identify the Anthropocene.
So what can we do?
In 1997 the Kyoto protocol committed industrial nations to reduce their carbon emissions…192 nations, all UN members signed up (except Andorra, Canada that withdrew in 2011, south Sudan and the U.S. which signed but did not ratify) The targets the treaty were aiming for (8% for European Union) are WAY too weak to prevent a 2°c rise. To get anywhere near effective, globally we require a 60% reduction in emissions. Think global, act local…
I worked out my yearly carbon footprint on the Carbon Footprint calculator, which for 2013 was 5.57 tonnes…we really need accessible, affordable public transport in Britain. I also need a job so I can save up for some PV panels to increase my use of renewable energy.
This course has been a fantastic experience. I wanted to improve my understanding of climate change and it has done that brilliantly. Although there was a lot of technical terminology to get my head around I did enjoy building on my limited scientific knowledge. From geography to chemistry, from history to geology, and dendrochronology to the improved capabilities of weather satellites I have a far better understanding of the breadth of science underpinning climate change.
I appreciate the difference between climate and weather. I have been introduced to the complexity of climate feedback loops, and the five spheres of influence. I can appreciate better the variety and impact of clouds, the nature of carbon sinks and the problem of ocean acidification. My understanding of the cyrosphere, especially in relation to ice albedo and glaciers has increased. I have a more informed opinion of geoengineering although we are a rubbish species at prevention rather than cure, which would be responsible attitude to take. Urban heat islands, marine invertebrates, Passivhaus energy efficiency guidelines and the Anthropocene are now all on my radar!