Consequences of twenty-first-century policy for multi-millennial climate and sea-level change

| February 25, 2016 | Leave a Comment

Item Link: Access the Resource

Media Type: Article - Recent

Date of Publication: February 8, 2016

Year of Publication: 2016

Publisher: Macmillan Publishers Limited

Author(s): Patrick U Clark, Jeremy D Shakun, Shaun A Marcott, Alan C Mix, Michael Eby, Scott Kulp, Anders Levermann, Glenn A Milne, Patrik L Pfister, Benjamin D Santer, Daniel P Schrag, Susan Solomon, Thomas F Stocker, Benjamin H Strauss, Andrew J Weaver, Ricarda Winkelmann, David Archer, Edouard Bard, Aaron Goldner, Kurt Lambeck, Raymond T Pierrehumbert, Gian-Kasper Plattner

Journal: Nature Climate Change

Volume: Advanced Online Pub.

Categories: , , ,

Are we considering too narrow of a time scale when we discuss the necessary actions to mitigate and adapt to climate change?

“What is clear from our analysis is that the decisions being made today will have profound and permanent consequences for future generations as well as for the planet; yet, future generations are not part of today’s decision making, and today’s decision makers do not have to live with most consequences of their decisions.” 

ABSTRACT: Most of the policy debate surrounding the actions needed to mitigate and adapt to anthropogenic climate change has been framed by observations of the past 150 years as well as climate and sea-level projections for the twenty-first century. The focus on this 250-year window, however, obscures some of the most profound problems associated with climate change. Here, we argue that the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, a period during which the overwhelming majority of human-caused carbon emissions are likely to occur, need to be placed into a long-term context that includes the past 20 millennia, when the last Ice Age ended and human civilization developed, and the next ten millennia, over which time the projected impacts of anthropogenic climate change will grow and persist. This long-term perspective illustrates that policy decisions made in the next few years to decades will have profound impacts on global climate, ecosystems and human societies — not just for this century, but for the next ten millennia and beyond.

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