We’re on Fire—and Not in a Good Way

A new study finds that our current temperature increases are unlike anything that’s happened in the previous 11,000 years.
Greenhouse gas emissions send temperatures soaring during what's supposed to be a cooling phase for the planet. (Photo: Jeremy Walker/Getty Images)
Mar 10, 2013· 2 MIN READ
A Bay Area native, Andri Antoniades has previously worked as a fashion industry journalist and a medical writer.

If you’ve ever tried to defend the validity of global warming to someone who doesn’t believe in it, you’ve probably heard them say, “The Earth thawed itself out of an Ice Age before and no one called that global warming!”

But science is proving that our current warming trends aren’t on par with our previous ones at all; new research reveals that what we’re facing now may truly be unprecedented.

According to a new study conducted by researchers from Oregon State University and Harvard, between 2000 and 2009, the planet was hotter than 75 percent of the last 11,300 years.

This is how it started: Scientists found that at the turn of the 20th century, the planet was still in a cooling phase; for the previous 5,000 years, temperatures had slowly dropped by about 1.3 degrees Fahrenheit. However, just a century later, the opposite happened; temperatures shot up by 1.3 degrees.

That means that a temperature shift that historically should have taken 5,000 years to manifest, suddenly took just 100 years.

But we’re not supposed to be warming up at all. Were it not for manmade industry, the planet would still be in a cooling phase and getting colder.

Instead, our greenhouse gas emissions are ensuring the opposite. Scientists say that our impending temperature shifts could see further increases ranging from two to 11.5 degrees, and by 2100, they expect our planet to be the hottest it’s ever been.

NPR reports that Gavin Schmidt, a climate researcher at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies confirmed, “The climate changes to come are going to be larger than anything that human civilization and agriculture has seen in its entire existence.”

As the mercury rises and freakish weather patterns continue to emerge, those who had previously balked at the idea of global warming are coming around to accepting it as a fact, which isn’t as positive a development as you might expect.

While a majority of Americans, even Republicans, now believe that we have a global warming problem, so does Wall Street, which is hoping to capitalize on our environmental downfall in no small measure.

SFGate reports that financial firms aren’t dumping money into ventures like clean energy, which could prevent climate change, but are instead shifting funds into businesses meant to profit from environmental disaster.

Some, like the hedge fund Water Asset Management, are putting money into water rights and treatment plants, which they predict will skyrocket in value as our freshwater supplies become poisoned. Others, like NunaMinerals, are ramping up coal mining in parts of Greenland that were previously covered by glacial ice.

True, Wall Street has never been a bastion of morality, but mercifully, there are still a myriad of eco-entrepreneurs and even a few bigger businesses dedicated to operating with more sustainable business practices. Surprisingly, Dunkin’ Donuts Brands is among those leading the charge.

According to The New York Times, the donut retailer recently pledged to set a timetable to obtain 100 percent of its palm oil from sustainable sources. A mainstay in industrial production, palm oil is an often-used substance in a range of products that span from sweets to cosmetics. But it’s also a major environmental scourge; palm oil production releases massive quantities of greenhouse gas emissions while simultaneously destroying the rainforests meant to absorb them. The oil can be ethically sourced, but is often not.

Are sustainably sourced donuts really going to help global warming? Yes. They may not be the only answer, but that’s because there is no one answer. With human industry pushing temperatures to all-time highs within the next 100 years, our salvation may just lie in finding the millions of small ways we can alter our lives and businesses to lessen their environmental impact, not because it feels good—we’re beyond that—but because the life of our planet clearly depends upon it.

Does this latest study spur you to do more to lessen your own impact? Tell us about it in the Comments.