By Kris Keogh
LAST week, for the first time in human history, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere were measured at more than 400 parts per million at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, the world's oldest continuous CO2 measurement station.
This little fact, without any context, doesn't seem all that important.
To understand why CO2 levels matter, let's first run through the basics.
Large amounts of CO2 are emitted into the atmosphere when we burn fossil fuels.
This CO2 stays there for thousands of years, trapping heat from the sun, slowly raising the temperature of our planet. A temperature increase of even a few degrees can drastically change how and where we can grow food, work and live.
A level of 350ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere is where many scientists believe we can stop the runaway affects of climate change. Unfortunately, we passed 350ppm in 1988. In the past decade the CO2 level has risen by an average of 2.1ppm a year.
Today's rate of increase is more than 100 times faster than the increase that occurred when the last ice age ended.
To cut a long story short, climate change, due to our continued use of fossil fuels is very, very real.
Governments across the world have paid lip service to this issue for the past two decades, with very little actually being done.
We need real action, fast. We need to end our use of fossil fuels so the CO2 level can start to drop.
Unlike Australia, some countries have already become powered by 100 per cent renewable energy. Iceland generates all of its energy by geothermal and hydroelectric means.
Last year, our Federal Government commissioned the Australian Energy Market Operator to examine the feasibility of Australia going 100 per cent renewable.
Their recent report found it to be possible at costs almost identical to a business-as-usual model. Other institutes, including The University of New South Wales and Beyond Zero Emissions have also published studies with similar outcomes.