Dr. David Allen
The Earth’s climate is in a constant state of flux. Over the last 800,000 years there have been no less than eight ice ages punctuated by warmer periods. These ice ages are driven by slight changes in the Earth’s orbit around the sun known as Milankovitch cycles. Modern civilisation as we know it, emerged since the end of the last ice-age around 10,000 years ago.
The warming that we are witnessing over the last 30 years however is unprecedented.
Paleoclimate data indicates that the planet is warming roughly ten times faster than the average rate of warming after previous ice ages.1
The chart below shows the “temperature anomaly” since 1880.2 According to NASA, the 15 warmest years on record have occurred since 2005, and the previous eight years are the hottest ever recorded.
Source: NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS)
There is a robust consensus in the scientific community that the speed of this warming pattern is driven by the dramatic increase in the levels of green-house gasses in the atmosphere caused by human activity. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) state that: “Since systematic scientific assessments began in the 1970s, the influence of human activity on the warming of the climate system has evolved from theory to established fact.”3
Approximately 97% of climate scientists believe that climate change is a reality and is caused by human activity.4
The chart below shows how CO2 levels have varied over the last 800,000 years using paleo ice-core data. CO2 levels over this entire period never exceed 300 parts per million (ppm). CO2 levels gradually started to increase from the industrial revolution which began in 1870. It is only in the last thirty years however that CO2 levels have exploded reaching 420 ppm in 2022. Under a business as usual scenario the OECD predicts CO2 will reach 685 ppm by 2050.
The effects of climate change are already striking.
In part II of this series we will look at some NASA satellite imagery that highlights just how rapidly our world is changing. Stay tuned.
About the Author
Dr David Allen is head of Short/Long Strategies at Plato, managing the Plato Global Net Zero Hedge Fund. He holds a PhD from Cambridge and Bachelor of Business with First Class Honours.
2Data courtesy of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS)
3IPCC Sixth Assessment Report, WGI, Technical Summary; B.D. Santer et.al., “A search for human influences on the thermal structure of the atmosphere,” Nature vol 382, 4 July 1996, 39-46 ; Gabriele C. Hegerl, “Detecting Greenhouse-Gas-Induced Climate Change with an Optimal Fingerprint Method,” Journal of Climate, v. 9, October 1996, 2281-2306; V. Ramaswamy et.al., “Anthropogenic and Natural Influences in the Evolution of Lower Stratospheric Cooling,” Science 311 (24 February 2006), 1138-1141; B.D. Santer et.al., “Contributions of Anthropogenic and Natural Forcing to Recent Tropopause Height Changes,” Science vol. 301 (25 July 2003), 479-483; T. Westerhold et. al., “An astronomically dated record of Earth’s climate and its predictability over the last 66 million years,” Science vol. 369 (11 Sept. 2020), 1383-1387.
4AAAS Board Statement on Climate Change (2014)
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