Antarctica could turn green again with forests, as levels of carbon dioxide rocket in the atmosphere, experts say – after finding clues from three million years ago.
The Pliocene period, three million years ago, was the last time carbon dioxide levels were as high as they are today – at 400 parts per million, a threshold the world crossed in 2015.
During the Pliocene, sea levels were more than 40 feet higher, and temperatures up to 3.5C warmer than they are now.
Professor Dame Jane Francis, director of the British Antarctic Survey, said remnants of forests found in Antarctica could hint at the future of the continent.
Francis said, ‘The really important significance of this is that we’ve got 400 ppm now, and if we had 400 ppm in the past, this is maybe where we are going back to.
‘Which is the ice sheets are going to shrink at times, not all the time but at times… which may allow plants to colonise in Antarctic land again.
Professor Martin Siegert says that there may be a ‘lag’ before the true impact of these carbon dioxide levels are seen.
Prof Siegert said, ‘If ou put your oven on at home, and set it to 200C, the temperature doesn’t get to that immediately. It takes a bit of time, and it’s the same with the climate.”
‘What it means is that by the end of this century, we might expect another 1C.’