The Long Thaw: How Humans Are Changing the Next 100,000 Years of Earth's Climate

The Long Thaw: How Humans Are Changing the Next 100,000 Years of Earth's Climate

The Long Thaw: How Humans Are Changing the Next 100,000 Years of Earth's Climate

The Long Thaw: How Humans Are Changing the Next 100,000 Years of Earth's Climate

Synopsis

If you think that global warming means slightly hotter weather and a modest rise in sea levels that will persist only so long as fossil fuels hold out (or until we decide to stop burning them), think again. In The Long Thaw, David Archer, one of the world's leading climatologists, predicts that if we continue to emit carbon dioxide we may eventually cancel the next ice age and raise the oceans by 50 meters. The great ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland may take more than a century to melt, and the overall change in sea level will be one hundred times what is forecast for 2100. By comparing the global warming projection for the next century to natural climate changes of the distant past, and then looking into the future far beyond the usual scientific and political horizon of the year 2100, Archer reveals the hard truths of the long-term climate forecast.


Archer shows how just a few centuries of fossil-fuel use will cause not only a climate storm that will last a few hundred years, but dramatic climate changes that will last thousands. Carbon dioxide emitted today will be a problem for millennia. For the first time, humans have become major players in shaping the long-term climate. In fact, a planetwide thaw driven by humans has already begun. But despite the seriousness of the situation, Archer argues that it is still not too late to avert dangerous climate change--if humans can find a way to cooperate as never before.


Revealing why carbon dioxide may be an even worse gamble in the long run than in the short, this compelling and critically important book brings the best long-term climate science to a general audience for the first time.

Excerpt

Global warming could be one of humankind’s longest lasting legacies. The climatic impacts of releasing fossil fuel CO to the atmosphere will last longer than Stonehenge. Longer than time capsules, longer than nuclear waste, far longer than the age of human civilization so far. Each ton of coal that we burn leaves CO gas in the atmosphere. The CO coming from a quarter of that ton will still be affecting the climate one thousand years from now, at the start of the next millennium. And that is only the beginning.

The excess CO in the atmosphere at the next millennium may not be the exact same molecules that came from our power plants. Some of the CO from fossil fuels will have been taken up into trees, or deposited in soils. Some will have dissolved in the oceans. But, as this book will explain, the CO concentration in the atmosphere at the next millennium will be higher if that coal is burned than if it is not. About 10% of the CO from coal will still be affecting the climate in one hundred thousand years.

Over the last few centuries, mankind has been humbled by insights from the scientific enterprise. Darwin told us that hu-

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