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A warning from earth’s ancient climate past

An international team of researchers has peered into the past to piece together the most complete history to date of carbon dioxide (CO2) levels on Earth over the last 66 million years in a new study. In the study, published on 31 May in the journal the Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences, the team analyzed data taken over the last 15 years. This data came from previous research that took samples of ancient mud from the deep-sea floor.

These ancient mud cores contained microscopic fossils and molecules that accumulated over time. These samples contain preserved information about CO2 levels and climate conditions from the past.

With this work, the team aimed to bolster our understanding of the link between CO2 and climate, showing how things have really changed since the time when dinosaurs last walked planet Earth and look to Earth’s future as climate change continues to threaten our planets and its inhabitants.

Importantly, the team showed how, without a significant reduction in fossil fuel emissions, Earth will soon reach CO2 levels as high as they were about 50 million years ago.

“If we allow fossil fuel burning to continue to grow, our grandchildren may experience CO2 levels that haven’t been seen on Earth for around 50 million years, a time when crocodiles roamed the Arctic,” lead researcher James Rae said.

“For instance,” Rae said, “the last time CO2 was as high as it is today, enough ice melted to raise sea level by 20 meters, and it was warm enough for beech trees to grow on Antarctica.”

Another new study has found that sea ice across much of the Arctic is thinning twice as fast as previously thought. Robbie Mallett of University College London, who led the study, said: “Sea ice thickness is a sensitive indicator of the health of the Arctic – and, when the Arctic warms, the world warms.

“Thicker ice acts as an insulating blanket, stopping the ocean from warming up the atmosphere in winter and protecting the ocean from the sunshine in summer. Thinner ice is also less likely to survive during the Arctic summer melt.”

Changes in the Arctic are also increasingly believed to influence extreme weather such as heatwaves and floods around the northern hemisphere.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the Australia Institute and the Conservation Council of WA have released a joint report revealing the startling pollution figures of Woodside’s proposed $16 billion Scarborough’s LNG project (more polluting than the Adani mine).

Other research indicates that the coal exported by Australia to Japan alone is responsible for around 490 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, which is almost the equivalent to Australia’s domestic greenhouse gas emissions.

This, as our prime minister adopts a new creative form of consumption-based accounting for Australia’s emissions to distort reality. Morrison is boasting Australia has reduced its emissions by 36% from 2005 levels. He did this by excluding all the emissions created in Australia in the process of digging up and transporting fossil fuels to destination countries.

Fair enough, but by using this form of consumption-based accounting, Australia should bear the burden of emissions in the production of goods it imports e.g. a laptop made in China and sent to Australia.

But old mate forgot to add those emissions back in to get to his 36%!

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