by Robert Wilkinson
Yes, it seems the conventional wisdom that the Earth’s climate is gradually changing is no longer operational, and that scientists are now alarmed at how quickly climate change is accelerating!
From an LA Times story by Tony Barboza via McClatchy titled Studies warn of abrupt environmental effects of warming we read that the new data challenges the notion that “climate change is occurring gradually over the century and that its worst effects can be avoided by keeping emissions below a critical threshold.” From the story:
A National Research Council report says the planet is warming so quickly that the world should expect abrupt and unpredictable consequences in a matter of years or a few decades. Among the changes already underway are the sudden decline in Arctic sea ice as well as climbing extinction rates, the report found.
Scientists based their findings, in part, on the study of climate history as recorded in tree rings, ocean sediment and ice cores. They found the timeline punctuated by big, sudden changes, including ocean circulation shifts and mass extinctions.
As a result of the burning of fossil fuels, industrial activity and deforestation, the amount of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has soared to levels not seen in millions of years, with global temperatures rising by about 1.5 degrees. The scientists say the accelerating gas levels increase the risk of reaching various "tipping points," leaving nature and society little time to react.
A separate study published Tuesday challenges a widely held view that the world can avoid the most dangerous consequences of climate change by limiting emissions to 1 trillion metric tons of carbon since preindustrial times. Staying below that ceiling would keep global temperatures from rising more than 3.6 degrees, a threshold the United Nations-backed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has endorsed.
An international group of scientists, health experts, legal scholars and economists under the auspices of Columbia University says the cap is too high. Fossil fuel emissions must be kept to half that and global warming held to about 1.8 degrees to avert disastrous consequences, they say, including many feet of sea level rise and irreversible ecological harm.
"If we don't get on a downward emissions pathway this decade, young people are likely to inherit a climate system with dramatic consequences out of their control," said James Hansen, the climate scientist who led the study.
Even those scientists who don’t agree with these studies are of the opinion we must reduce our carbon emissions or face dire consequences down the road, including the collapse of the western ice sheets in Antarctica which protect the rest of the land ice from sliding into the ocean, which of course would precipitate a dramatic rise in ocean and river levels around the world. By all means, check out the original article, since there’s more.
Just another “canary in a coal mine” moment here on our beautiful ball of dirt we call Spaceship Urth. Nothing to fear, but a lot to prepare for.
Copyright © 2013 Robert Wilkinson