Time for another “the sky is falling” post about climate change.
First, something I heard on the radio this weekend – actually a couple of things, not necessarily connected to climate change, but related to climate change unless you think that there’s a connection between this year’s extreme El Nino and climate change (possible but not proven). First, native communities in Canada’s north are suffering because the winter ice roads that they rely on for transportation of heavy goods aren’t passable because the winter has been so warm. (Remember that climate change affects the arctic more than temperate regions). This has serious consequences for communities that rely on the ice roads to bring in fuel and bulk goods (including food) to last them through the rest of the year. Also, the caribou aren’t migrating south, so families that rely on hunting caribou during the winter aren’t getting the meat they would normally freeze and store for the rest of they year.
Now on to even grimmer things. A new study published in Nature Climate Change says that it could take 10,000 years for the Earth to recover from the changes now being forced by human fossil fuel consumption.
To put our predicament in a broader context, the authors looked at the impact of four possible levels of carbon pollution—1,280 to 5,120 billion tonnes—emitted between the year 2000 to 2300. (We’ve already put 580 billion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere, at a current rate of 10 billion tonnes per year.) Drawing on paleoclimate datasets that describe the relationship between carbon dioxide, temperature, and sea level over the last 20,000 years, the researchers projected what will happen to global temperatures, sea level, and ice cover over the next 10,000 years.
While each scenario has carbon emissions falling to zero by 2300, in all cases the impacts of industrial society last for up to 10,000 years. For instance, in the high-emissions scenario, global temperatures rise to 7 degrees Celsius (12.6 degree Fahrenheit) by 2300 AD. By 12,300 AD, the planet has only cooled off a single degree.
One of the most disturbing aspects of the new report is the long-term march of sea level rise, which is likely to continue unchecked for thousands of years after carbon emissions fall to zero. “The amount of sea level rise was startling and chilling,” study co-author Peter Clarke of Oregon State University told Gizmodo in an email.