Dana Royer, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences, was quoted in a Dec. 30, 2009 issue of Nature News in an article titled “Soils give clean look at past carbon dioxide.”
According to the article, scientists believe atmospheric carbon dioxide levels may have been lower in warm eras of the Earth’s distant past than once believed. The finding raises concern that carbon dioxide levels from fossil fuel burning may, in the near future, be closer to those associated with ancient hothouse climates.
More immediately, the work brings one line of palaeoclimate evidence — that deduced from ancient soils — into agreement with other techniques for studying past climate.
“It makes a major revision to one of the most popular methods for reconstructing palaeo-CO2,” Royer says in the article. “This increases our confidence that we have a decent understanding of palaeo-CO2 patterns.”
Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are rising today, and the new finding suggests that climate might be considerably more sensitive to changes in carbon dioxide than previously thought.
“This may have implications for near-future climate change,” Royer says.