According to a new, worrying scientific paper, mankind has managed to rewind our planet’s climate clock 50 million years in a matter of centuries.
As things are looking now, between 2030 and 2040, Earth’s climate could resemble that of the mid-Pliocene, a period that existed 3 million years ago. During that period, there were no large ice sheets in the Northern Hemisphere and sea levels on Earth were about 18 meters (60 feet) higher than the present.
And if things continue like this, by 2150, the climate on Earth could resemble conditions that existed in the Eocene, some 50 million years ago.
During the Eocene, the average temperature on Earth was around 13 degrees Celsius hotter than today, and there was barely any ice on the surface of the planet.
The Eocene was characterized by abnormally high levels of carbon dioxide, volcanic eruptions, and earthquakes.
But the most worrying part is that if our planet’s temperature continues to increase, and if it does so by just 2 degrees Celsius, thousands of animal species could go extinct.
To put that in another perspective. If our planet’s history was a movie, right now we are hitting the rewind button, causing us to go back to the beginning.
“If we think about the future in terms of the past, where we are going is uncharted territory for human society,” says the study’s lead author, Kevin Burke, who conducted the work while a graduate student in the lab of paleoecologist John “Jack” Williams, professor of geography at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“We are moving toward very dramatic changes over an extremely rapid time frame, reversing a planetary cooling trend in a matter of centuries.”
As explained by experts, all of the species that live on Earth today had an ancestor that survived the Eocene and the Pliocene periods.
However, it remains a mystery if humans and the flora and fauna we are familiar with today can evolve and adapt to rapid changes that seem to be inevitable.
As noted by Science Daily, the ” new paper builds upon work Williams and colleagues first published in 2007, where they compared future climate projections to historical climate data from the early 20th century.”
“The new study relies on extensive data about climate conditions to probe much deeper in Earth’s geologic past and expand those comparisons.”
“We can use the past as a yardstick to understand the future, which is so different from anything we have experienced in our lifetimes,” says Williams.
“People have a hard time projecting what the world will be like five or 10 years from now. This is a tool for predicting that — how we head down those paths and using deep geologic analogs from Earth’s history to think about changes in time.”