Stop burning fossil fuels now to warm Earth later?
(Page 2 of 2)
We've released enough carbon dioxide to ward off an ice age for another 55,000 years, he said. And if we saved what remains for controlled release in the future, we could keep the our relatively balmy conditions going for another 500,000 years.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Another study last year in the journal Nature suggested yet another reason (besides avoiding sea level rise and ocean acidification, among other things) why this approach might be wise in the long term. The authors argued that oscillations between warm and cold during the Pleistocene actually represented a transition phase to a stable state that was much colder.
In other words, the next ice age could be permanent. As The New York Times' Andrew Revkin described it: "In essence ... the ice age cycles over the past million years are a super-slow-motion variant of the dramatic jostlings recorded by a seismograph in an earthquake before the ground settles into a new quiet state.">
Climate scientists weighed in on the paper in the Times' Dot Earth blog:
NASA'S James Hansen pointed out the obvious — that our problem was the opposite: "It would take only one CFC factory to avert any natural cooling tendency. Our problem is the opposite: we cannot seem to find a way to keep our GHG forcing at a level that assures a climate resembling that of the past 10,000 years."
MIT's Carl Wunsch questioned the scientific validity of the whole exercise: "If I make a four-box model of the world economy, and predict the US stock market level 500 years from now, who would pay any attention? Climate is far more complicated than the world economy, yet supposedly reputable journals are publishing papers that superficially look like science, but which are the sort of thing scientists will speculate about late at night over a few beers."
Editor’s note: For more articles about the environment, see the Monitor’s main environment page, which offers information on many environment topics. Also, check out our Bright Green blog archive and our RSS feed.