Cold comfort in British Antarctic deep ice core results

A BBC News story reports findings from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) that the rate of increase of atmospheric greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere is unprecedented, at least over the past 800,000 years.

Studying a deep ice core sample, the scientists have not only been able to measure the greenhouse gas concentrations in ancient atmospheres but also the average temperatures. The result, according to the BBC report, is that carbon dioxide concentration and temperature rise and fall in lockstep.

The report quotes BAS scientist Dr. Eric Wolff, who saw no signs that geological or biological systems have served as CO2 sinks to mitigate the increases.

Wolff told the BBC that the fastest observed increase in CO2 was about 30 parts per million (ppm) in 1000 years, in contrast to present circumstances in which “the last 30 ppm of increase has occurred in just 17 years. We really are in the situation where we don’t have any analogue in our records.”

More details on climate change, including its geopolitical implications, are described in a number of recent books, most notably Field Notes from a Catastrophe by Elizabeth Kolbert and The Weather Makers by Tim Flannery.

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