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CO2 effects well into the year 3000

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And our children’s children cannot escape it either.

Even if we suddenly halted all CO2 and reverted to the pure state of Adam and Eve, the damage of today will last a millenium.  CO2 causes irreversible damage for at least 1000 years

Interview with NOAA senior scientist Susan Solomon

The original NOAA press release Jan 26, 2008


New Study Shows Climate Change Largely Irreversible

January 26, 2009

A new scientific study led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reaches a powerful conclusion about the climate change caused by future increases of carbon dioxide: to a large extent, there’s no going back.

The pioneering study, led by NOAA senior scientist Susan Solomon, shows how changes in surface temperature, rainfall, and sea level are largely irreversible for more than 1,000 years after carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are completely stopped. The findings appear during the week of January 26 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Our study convinced us that current choices regarding carbon dioxide emissions will have legacies that will irreversibly change the planet,” said Solomon, who is based at NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo.

“It has long been known that some of the carbon dioxide emitted by human activities stays in the atmosphere for thousands of years,” Solomon said. “But the new study advances the understanding of how this affects the climate system.”

The study examines the consequences of allowing CO2 to build up to several different peak levels beyond present-day concentrations of 385 parts per million and then completely halting the emissions after the peak. The authors found that the scientific evidence is strong enough to quantify some irreversible climate impacts, including rainfall changes in certain key regions, and global sea level rise.

If CO2 is allowed to peak at 450-600 parts per million, the results would include persistent decreases in dry-season rainfall that are comparable to the 1930s North American Dust Bowl in zones including southern Europe, northern Africa, southwestern North America, southern Africa and western Australia.

The study notes that decreases in rainfall that last not just for a few decades but over centuries are expected to have a range of impacts that differ by region. Such regional impacts include decreasing human water supplies, increased fire frequency, ecosystem change and expanded deserts. Dry-season wheat and maize agriculture in regions of rain-fed farming, such as Africa, would also be affected.

Climate impacts were less severe at lower peak levels. But at all levels added carbon dioxide and its climate effects linger because of the ocean.

“In the long run, both carbon dioxide loss and heat transfer depend on the same physics of deep-ocean mixing. The two work against each other to keep temperatures almost constant for more than a thousand years, and that makes carbon dioxide unique among the major climate gases,” said Solomon.

The scientists emphasize that increases in CO2 that occur in this century “lock in” sea level rise that would slowly follow in the next 1,000 years. Considering just the expansion of warming ocean waters—without melting glaciers and polar ice sheets—the authors find that the irreversible global average sea level rise by the year 3000 would be at least 1.3-3.2 feet (0.4-1.0 meter) if CO2 peaks at 600 parts per million, and double that amount if CO2 peaks at 1,000 parts per million.

“Additional contributions to sea level rise from the melting of glaciers and polar ice sheets are too uncertain to quantify in the same way,” said Solomon. “They could be even larger but we just don’t have the same level of knowledge about those terms. We presented the minimum sea level rise that we can expect from well-understood physics, and we were surprised that it was so large.”

Rising sea levels would cause “…irreversible commitments to future changes in the geography of the Earth, since many coastal and island features would ultimately become submerged,” the authors write.

Geoengineering to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere was not considered in the study. “Ideas about taking the carbon dioxide away after the world puts it in have been proposed, but right now those are very speculative,” said Solomon.

The authors relied on measurements as well as many different models to support the understanding of their results. They focused on drying of particular regions and on thermal expansion of the ocean because observations suggest that humans are contributing to changes that have already been measured.

Besides Solomon, the study’s authors are Gian-Kasper Plattner and Reto Knutti of ETH Zurich, Switzerland, and Pierre Friedlingstein of Institut Pierre Simon Laplace, Gif-Sur-Yvette, France.

NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources.


The latest CO2 measurements are current and will change as soon as recorded by scientists.

Chart of the current trend for atmospheric CO2

Looming Heat Storm Has No End

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Humans have decided to accept the risk of certain warming in exchange for easy, cheap carbon fuels.   Of course, mass marketing helps this along by exhorting us to ignore the consequences and to give in to this short term indulgence..

DawnCityCrs.jpgThis is similar to the profligate debt packaging of the last few decades. The payoff from the risk is too high for humans to resist.  So we persist despite warnings.  Now just one week of Congressional hubris and we are supposed to think all is well. The financial industry bailout is a model for how government will face the next big problem.  And I am not convinced that government will do very well.

We are disempowered, we keep an eye on the horizon and see the warming coming.  We can speak truth and demand an end to denial, but we are a long way from significant action.  The most fundamental thing we can control is our spiritual center.  We can prepare ourselves for the privation ahead by knowing about it.  Think of it as a slow moving hurricane like Katrina. Everyone was stunned by the unexpected death and destruction and the suffering that still remains.  For the next hurricanes FEMA tried harder, and people sensed the importance of seeking safety preparing and plans to survive.  The next hurricane will teach us more lessons.  

Global Climate Destabilization is kind of like a looming heat storm with no end.  We have never seen this, we don't know what to expect, we are not completely sure about all the catastrophes associated with this.   But clearly our own actions have made it worse, and our actions can make it less destructive.  All of human history has never seen such a storm  Science gives us much of a general view but we don't know exactly when, and we don't know exactly how bad.  But the heat is on the horizon.
 
darkdawncropss.jpgHumans will eventually know all this by feeling it directly.  It is really hard for me to accept that our species is unable to act to the clear danger.  It tests my acceptance, makes me angry that humans have not really decided to live into a multigenerational future.   That is really sad.  I expect people will feel these kinds of emotions more and more. 

How bad? and When? Answer: Worse and Sooner

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I try to avoid expressing my hypervigilance much  - but this may be appropriate.  Global warming is totally ignored.  Global denial is getting delusional. 

This is the latest discussion from the global warming front...
http://climaticidechronicles.org/2008/09/24/what-will-it-take-to-get-us-into-the-streets/

This is picking up on some very disturbing news - not yet peer reviewed - but very big change is becoming more inevitable.   Other sites discussed this, but this guy seems to have the best writing.

For me, I think the answers may be more Zen- like, Zen something.  Techno-existentialist quandary here.

Choose:  Insanely radical change to save the very future of the species?  Or let go and live out the lovely end days.   Or how much in between?

I still want to keep trying to discover "how bad?"  and  "when?"  

This disquieting news of Methane melting suggests  Worse and Sooner.  

I am left facing my own life now and trying to enjoy it.   So far, I predict things will get slightly messy and chaotic fairly soon (years), but the real horrors may come about in mid century.  But paleoclimatological studies posit very rapid and radical climate changes in the past - changes in 2 to 10 years.   I call it possible but implausible. For now.