With current rates of Arctic warming continuing to accelerate, especially over the past two decades, Dr. Ashley Ballantyne of the University of Colorado, USA and other international colleagues sought to better understand these rising temperature-related risks.
To do so, he looked back in Earths’ history to the Pliocene Epoch between 2.5 to more than 5 million years ago, when CO2 levels were between 350-450 parts per million, comparable to today’s approximately 390 parts per million. However, despite the similar amounts of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, the Arctic’s temperature at that time was much higher.
Dr. Ballantyne’s findings indicate that present temperatures in the Arctic simply may not yet be showing the future changes in store for the region.
Dr. Ashley Ballantyne – University of Colorado, USA (M): We were pretty startled to learn from our estimates that temperatures were on the order of 19 degrees (Celsius) warmer during the Pliocene in the Arctic.
It was very different from the Arctic landscape of today, which is very sparse and barren if there isn’t ice cover. This implies that not only is the Arctic very sensitive to CO2 levels, but that what we’ve observed thus far in the Arctic is a transient response, and that the Arctic hasn’t yet reached its equilibrium state.
VOICE: The research suggests that the significant changes resulting from the presence of increased CO2 in the atmosphere could not only harm species’ adaptation and survival but could even set off an unalterable process of ice-free warming. Related research has already forecast that continued melting of the Arctic tundra could trigger a devastating release of greenhouse gases such as the potent methane into the atmosphere, leading to runaway global warming.
Dr. Ballantyne (M): It implies that the Arctic is in store for much warmer conditions in the future, even if we were to stabilize CO2 levels at four hundred parts per million. And this warming will produce irreversible changes in our big ecosystems.
VOICE: Our appreciation, Dr. Ballantyne and associates, for your research that warns of future Arctic destabilization even without further greenhouse gas emissions. May we act quickly in mitigating climate change at all costs by adopting necessary Earth-preserving measures. In an August 2008 interview by Ireland’s East Coast FM Radio, Supreme Master Ching Hai urged for humanity to heed such scientific cautioning through the most effective actions to quickly rebalance the biosphere.