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A look back at the history of our greenhouse gases - CO2 over 800,000 years!

April 30, 2019

Spoiler… This blog post has no recipe.  It is a short intermission from all food-focused entries to show a graph I think every human should be familiar with…

(Image sourse UNC Charlotte MESAS: https://pages.uncc.edu/mesas/news/)

 

I know many people would rather read recipes than look at graphs, but this one is critical that we all understand.  The blue line shows the amount of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) (our most abundant greenhouse gas) in the earth’s atmosphere over the last …. 800,000 years!

 

Let’s put that in perspective…our human predecessor, Homo Erectus didn’t show up until about 250,000 years ago and so this is a record from WAY before humans inhabited the planet.

 

What is obvious is that there is clearly an “up and down” cycle to the amount of CO2 in our atmosphere but it’s also clear that until VERY recently, we never exceeded 300 parts per million (ppm).

 

Today, we’re OVER 400 ppm.  This is all new - we’ve never been here before!

 

What is also clear is that the red line, which shows the earth’s surface temperature, tracks closely with CO2 in this “up and down” pattern.  Higher CO2 causes temperatures to go up and lower CO2 causes temperatures to go down.

 

The good news is that the red line is delayed in following the blue line (thankfully) – somewhat due to the thermal sluggishness of water (with a high specific heat – more on that later). 

 

So – this gives us a small window of opportunity to rise to the challenge and start to turn CO2 emissions around before things get really out of hand.  We can do this and our kids and grand-kids are relying on us to do so … quickly.  Their food and water supply in the future depends on our actions today, honestly.

 

Our food system contributes more than 25% of these greenhouse gas emissions, including CO2 and so adapting our food habits CAN  make an enormous difference to the future of this curve!

 

Eat less beef, don’t waste food, limit processing energy and packaging, cook amazing meals at home with locally sources ingredients – the momentum is changing and it’s awesome to be part of the solution in this critical way!

 

Image credit:https://pages.uncc.edu/mesas/news/

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