The fundamental problem

Greenhouse gases are to blame

The August 2021 IPCC report couldn’t be clearer. The atmosphere is heating up at an alarming rate, and human activity – specifically, our fondness for burning fossil fuels and emitting greenhouse gases – is to blame.


How greenhouse gases work

Greenhouse gases, as the name suggests, trap heat within the Earth’s atmosphere, causing the surface temperature of the planet to rise. The more greenhouse gas is present in the atmosphere, the more heat is trapped. The effect is cumulative – around one fifth of the carbon dioxide current present in the atmosphere will still be there in 10,000 years time.

The current atmospheric concentration of CO2 is around 412 parts per million – a level unprecedented for more than three million years. The primary cause of this, according to the IPCC, is human activity since the start of the industrial revolution. Specifically, the burning of fossil fuels.

Greenhouse gasses climate problems

Climate change could kill 83 million…between 2020 and 2100 due to CO2 emissions and their effects if drastic reductions aren’t made.

Daniel Bressler et al.

‘The mortality costs of carbon.’ Peer-revied study in the journal Nature Communications

This is an existential problem

Rising global average temperatures are already causing all sorts of issues – speeding up the melting ice caps and glaciers, increasing in the incidence of wildfires, and the intensity of hurricanes and droughts. The last time atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide were this high, sea levels were 15 to 20 metres higher than they are today.

As temperatures continue to rise and these problems get worse, they threaten to render large parts of the planet uninhabitable. It’s no exaggeration to say that climate change poses an existential threat to the continuation of human life as we know it.