When carbon dioxide exhausts from combustion engines reach the atmosphere, they increase the levels of non-radioactive carbon, artificially ageing the atmosphere and, accordingly the new growths that exploit the atmospheric carbon.
Dr Graven warns that now, from the point of view of an archaeologist using radiocarbon dating, the planet’s atmosphere is ageing at the rate of 30 or so years for every year of international inaction.
If there are no steps to reduce emissions, then by 2050 the atmosphere will have a signature of what carbon ratios were 1,000 years ago.
By 2100, just one human lifetime away, the atmospheric clock will have been turned back to the era of Imperial Rome.
A UK scientist now warns that it will also make life increasingly difficult for archaeologists, forensic scientists, art experts, fraud and forgery detectives, and people who detect ivory poachers.
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That is because the swelling volume of carbon pumped into the atmosphere from factory and power station chimneys and motor and airline exhausts is beginning to artificially “age” the planet’s atmosphere and bedevil attempts to use the technology known as carbon dating.
If emissions continue under the now-notorious “business as usual” scenario, then by 2050 a brand-new cotton shirt will have the same radiocarbon-dating age as the cloak worn by William the Conqueror when he invaded Britain in 1066.