From the international to the local level, climate change (or a state shift in terms of climate states) is a leading issue. The factors that weigh into climate systems are many, and we cannot forgot that no system on this planet is driven by only one factor: instead it is a myriad of factors that determine the state a system occupies. The rise in atmospheric CO2 and CH4 (methane) are astronomical when examined on a geological scale, and simply discussing the numbers is not enough to drive the point home.
I will start with showing a short video, which puts the global increase in CO2 within the past 800,000 years in perspective in only about 90 seconds.
CO2 is not just relevant to climate, but also environmental chemistry. Increases in atmospheric CO2 translate directly into decreases in ocean and rain pH. This can hinder the growth of creatures that live in shells in the ocean, and make minerals in the soil less bioavailable (while making metals like aluminium more bioavailable).
Atmospheric methane, also a strong player in global warming (2000% more heat absorbent than CO2), has increased exponentially within the last 100 years. Its primary source is, at the moment, likely not even anthropogenic (human based), but instead part of a positive feedback loop: methane from the seafloor and permafrost being released and increasing local temperatures and thereby increasing how much methane (CH4) is being released.
When looking at the average readings over the last 20 years, it looks similar to CO2.
When we put this in historical context (and methane’s average concentration of between 400-800 ppb prior to 1900), this is shocking. But, if we examine data comparing the same timespan on 2013 to 2014 in regard to how much methane is rising, we see a more shocking picture. We see that the peaks are rising fast: indicating an increasingly steeper slope.
We are facing a storm of different factors, all arguing for a likely collapse of biosphere coherence: ecosystems become unable to remain in the same state and reduced diversity and altered niches result. Unless remaining stable ecosystems are connected, to allow the refilling of niches, healthy ecosystems will continue to collapse as the environmental factors continue to shift drastically. This is the same advice given ubiquitously by experts around the world: reduce damage, protect and network remaining ecosystems, and invest meaningfully in projects where recovery is possible.
This is a worldwide emergency and one recognized unanimously by ecologists worldwide as demanding immediate attention. The answer is not carbon credits, but a system in which environmental stability has a higher value than GDP. At the very least, we can demand actual responsibility for those responsible for major environmental damage.
What we cannot do is continue to pretend this is anything less than an emergency: the borders we are crossing and not ones we can easily get back over. To speak metaphorically: it is smarter to stop before going over a cliff, than it is to attempt to adapt to freefall.