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A million years
September 5, 2006 2:20 PM   Subscribe

Ice bubbles collected from core samples in Antarctica reveal the biggest rise in CO2 in 800,000 years.
posted by four panels (32 comments total)

 
The BBC link (June 9) says that CO2 levels higher than at any time in the last 440,000 years. The Reuters link (Sep 4) says 650,000 years.

Because these agendists with aspirations of science can't even agree on basic numbers they will never convince Joe Sixpack that he needs to put down his gas-powered lint brush and quit burning squirrels for warmth.
posted by djeo at 2:37 PM on September 5, 2006


THAT'S TELLIN' 'EM, DJEO.

Never mind that a couple of hundred thousand years is, basically, a rounding error on the kind of timeframes under discussion. Or that there is ample actual science underpinning these concerns.

By God, if they can't all agree on precisely the same number, it's false! False! FALSE, I SAY.
posted by scrump at 2:40 PM on September 5, 2006


Wait, is that....science?
*eyes suspiciously*
posted by Smedleyman at 2:47 PM on September 5, 2006


> The BBC link (June 9) says that CO2 levels higher than at any time in the last 440,000 years.

Not only that, the link to the article saying 440,000 years itself says "800,000 years." and the post title says "a million years." But coherence isn't important, what's important is being one of the good people on the right team.
posted by jfuller at 2:56 PM on September 5, 2006




> Never mind that a couple of hundred thousand years is, basically, a rounding error on
> the kind of timeframes under discussion.

Right you are. The Cretaceous Thermal Maximum was -91 million years ago, just a wee bit beyond the reach of these cores.

the middle through Late Cretaceous was a time of extreme global climatic warmth. The temperature maximum during the Cretaceous occurred about 94-89 million years ago, with surface water temperatures estimated as warm as 32ºC at 58ºS paleolatitude. Deepwater (>1000 m) temperatures for that time are estimated to have been between 15 and 20ºC, which is far warmer than modern day deep water termperatures averaging less than 2ºC. This “Supergreenhouse” climate marks the most extreme global warmth known to have occurred during the past 250 million years, supporting growth of lush forests, large dinosaurs and other temperature sensitive organisms at both poles.

...Little Green Footballs oops, nope, the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.

Certainly the planet is undergoing a warming trend just now, and probably this trend is being accelerated by human activity. What nobody knows--nobody has the foggiest idea--is whether this is, overall, a bad thing. "...supporting growth of lush forests, large dinosaurs and other temperature sensitive organisms at both poles," forsooth. Sounds pretty cool (to coin a phrase) to me. You reactionaries are so scared of change.
posted by jfuller at 3:21 PM on September 5, 2006


California's Global-Warming Solution
posted by homunculus at 3:42 PM on September 5, 2006


jfuller, humans didn't exist then. It's altogether likely that we'll find any major climate change to be, overall, detrimental.

Speaking as someone who has experience with both California and Georgia, you _really_ don't want the whole world to look like Georgia. Or, worse, Florida.
posted by Malor at 3:43 PM on September 5, 2006


Regarding the variety of numbers quoted (800,000 650,000 and 440,000 years) this appears to be poor presentation rather than poor data. I haven't found a simple graph or table of all the data yet - anybody else have better luck?
A critical factor seems to be that the recent rate of change is much greater than anything hitherto - and that would also be clear from the original data.
posted by speug at 4:33 PM on September 5, 2006


Yeah! We're #1! Take that simple frozen life form!
posted by jbelkin at 4:45 PM on September 5, 2006


Global warming, polluted water, bad air, cancer....you just can't win.
posted by Holy foxy moxie batman! at 5:30 PM on September 5, 2006


There are bubbles in my bathtub that also point to a big rise in CO2.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:31 PM on September 5, 2006


I think that's methane, actually.
posted by owhydididoit at 5:33 PM on September 5, 2006


"What nobody knows--nobody has the foggiest idea--is whether this is, overall, a bad thing. "...supporting growth of lush forests, large dinosaurs and other temperature sensitive organisms at both poles," forsooth. Sounds pretty cool (to coin a phrase) to me. You reactionaries are so scared of change."

Heh.

We don't really know much about the details of these transitions. Surely the Earth will end up in another good state at some point in the future with or without us. It sounds to me from the tone of your post like you don't really care which. I'd call THAT reactionary.
posted by muppetboy at 5:35 PM on September 5, 2006


muppetboy, don't feed the troll.
posted by substrate at 5:55 PM on September 5, 2006


Funny, nothing he's said sounds trollish to me.
posted by nightchrome at 6:00 PM on September 5, 2006


jfuller: should the Earth's temperature rise to the level it was during the Cretacious TM, large parts of the Earth would be uninhabitable by humans. Period. Note that the tempertaure changes we're speaking of are about to occur in the timescale of centuries not millions of years and so the time required for adaptation is rather short. The rise in sea levels alone that such an increase would percipitate is staggering. Tropical diseases would spread world-wide. Crops would fail - at CTM levels I doubt that cereals could be grown anywhere on the planet. But yeah, noone has the foggiest idea of whether this is a good thing or not. Because if you're a wealthy Canadian pensioner you won't need to go to Hawaii or Florida for your summer vacations, you could go to Baffin Island. So on the one hand you have global famine and mass extinctions, but on the other Club Med by the North Pole. Yep, it's a tough call.
posted by talos at 6:02 PM on September 5, 2006


fuggin hippies....
posted by Jeremy at 6:36 PM on September 5, 2006


> Surely the Earth will end up in another good state at some point in the future
> with or without us. It sounds to me from the tone of your post like you don't
> really care which.

muppetboy, the outcome may be good, bad, or indifferent, but we're definitely going to find out which. Like it or not this is a ride we're going to take. The net result of all the conferences and talk is not going to be anything but an increase in greenhouse emissions over and above even what they would have been, from the jet exhaust to the conferences and the gum-flapping at the conferences. Kyoto is the biggest thing on the horizon, and Kyoto is not just a band-aid, it's a bogus band-aid, a sham. Here's the major players:

China: exempt, not required to do anything
India: exempt, not required to do anything
US: didn't sign
Europe: signed, but not complying

You want to see effective action? I will take effective action, trust me. Make me dictator tonight, the human component of global warming stops tomorrow. No more bogus band-aids. It'll be the end of the global middle class and a couple billion peasants will die, but you know...omelettes...eggs...


talos:

> So on the one hand you have global famine and mass extinctions, but on the other Club Med by the North Pole. Yep, it's a tough call.

I'm thinking. I'm thinking.
/jack benny

posted by jfuller at 6:57 PM on September 5, 2006


The ice age is over? Holy shit...I did not know that...
posted by Muirwylde at 10:35 PM on September 5, 2006


jfuller: China and India take global warming pretty seriously. They've got vulnerable coastal populations, and they already deal with major flooding on a regular basis. Last year the national science academies of China, India, and Brazil signed a joint statement with the G8 science academies on the urgency of global warming.

Frankly, I don't see why cutting CO2 emissions is supposed to be so difficult. From your linked article, Germany's already cut its emissions by 17.5% since 1990. The EU is using the same cap-and-trade system that the US used to cut its SO2 emissions back in the 1990s.

Previous policy discussion.
posted by russilwvong at 12:21 AM on September 6, 2006


i thought we were in an ice age...
posted by Satapher at 12:21 AM on September 6, 2006


russilwvong:

> Frankly, I don't see why cutting CO2 emissions is supposed to be so difficult.

It's not, particularly, at least not at the level people will be willing to tolerate. It's merely useless at this point. "Cutting" greenhouse gas emission is exactly the kind of bogus band-aid solution that makes a certain kind of persion feel good about himself but that has no effect when it comes to stopping global warming. Consider:

Even if all greenhouse gases had been stabilized in the year 2000, we would still be committed to a warmer Earth and greater sea level rise in the present century, according to a new study by a team of climate modelers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). The findings are published in this week's issue of the journal Science.
(clipped from the physorg.com page linked below, but repeated with slight variations in all of them)

See that phrase "Even if all greenhouse gasses had been stabilized in the year 2000..."? That means no more GHG added by human activity. That's another way of saying "Halt modern industrial civilisation in its tracks. Stop driving now. Stop flying now. Stop manufacturing now. Stop burning now. Stop farming with fertilizer now." Do you dream that that, or anything close to it, is achievable? Well, it isn't. Therefore, on top of the inevitable warming we would be in for even if we stopped adding GHGs right now this minute, there's going to be more and greater warming, because we're not going to stop. Some of us may cut back a little....


Climate Models Reveal Inevitability of Global Warming

It's much too late to sweat global warming.

Science: Climate Change Inevitable

Limiting greenhouse gases won't help now, say scientists

We're on this roller coaster to the bitter end. "Cutting" GHGs at this point is a case of "If we persuade all 6.5 billion of us to put on the brakes now we'll hit the wall at 170 instead of 190." As I say, if I had a button to push that would "stabilize" GHGs where they are now you can trust me to do it--but there would be, uh, costs... about which even the most vocal opponents of global warming are in deep denial, because they really aren't willing to pay such a high price. Happy Wednesday.
posted by jfuller at 6:31 AM on September 6, 2006


jfuller: The objective isn't to stop global warming, it's just to slow it down to the point where we'll be able to adapt. See the link I posted earlier. James Hansen:
In order to arrive at an effective policy we can project two different scenarios concerning climate change. In the business-as-usual scenario, annual emissions of CO2 continue to increase at the current rate for at least fifty years, as do non-CO2 warming agents including methane, ozone, and black soot. In the alternative scenario, CO2 emissions level off this decade, slowly decline for a few decades, and by mid-century decrease rapidly, aided by new technologies.

The business-as-usual scenario yields an increase of about five degrees Fahrenheit of global warming during this century, while the alternative scenario yields an increase of less than two degrees Fahrenheit during the same period. ...

The business-as-usual scenario, with five degrees Fahrenheit global warming and ten degrees Fahrenheit at the ice sheets, certainly would cause the disintegration of ice sheets. The only question is when the collapse of these sheets would begin. The business-as-usual scenario, which could lead to an eventual sea level rise of eighty feet, with twenty feet or more per century, could produce global chaos, leaving fewer resources with which to mitigate the change in climate. The alternative scenario, with global warming under two degrees Fahrenheit, still produces a significant rise in the sea level, but its slower rate, probably less than a few feet per century, would allow time to develop strategies that would adapt to, and mitigate, the rise in the sea level.

The alternative scenario I have been referring to has been designed to be consistent with the Kyoto Protocol, i.e., with a world in which emissions from developed countries would decrease slowly early in this century and the developing countries would get help to adopt "clean" energy technologies that would limit the growth of their emissions. Delays in that approach—especially US refusal both to participate in Kyoto and to improve vehicle and power plant efficiencies—and the rapid growth in the use of dirty technologies have resulted in an increase of 2 percent per year in global CO2 emissions during the past ten years. If such growth continues for another decade, emissions in 2015 will be 35 percent greater than they were in 2000, making it impractical to achieve results close to the alternative scenario.
posted by russilwvong at 8:11 AM on September 6, 2006


Rant incoming...

You reactionaries are so scared of change.

If you're interested in what just a tiny bit of global warming does to human civilization, do a search for "Little Optimum" or "Medieval Warm Period" on Google.

The change? Approximately 1°C hotter around 800-1300 AD, approximately 1°C cooler around 1400-1850 AD. Less than the changes involved in our current warming trend.

The effects? Wales was wine country. L.A.'s climate moved to friggin' Portland. The friggin' Norman Conquest was possible in part because of warmer conditions (and productive agriculture) in southern Britain - and the Norman Conquest, arguably, changed the entire course of Western civilization. Western North America dried up - archaeological evidence exists that indicates massive drought during this time. East Africa also dried up. The cool period wasn't a picnic, either - imagine the River Thames freezing solid. Regular occurrence in the late 1600's.

Why bring this up? Because folks are using this to say that global warming is nothing to panic about - it's happened before, after all, and that folks are being "reactionary."

The issue isn't that we're precipitating it - although we do know that we have an effect, we don't know to what extent. The issue isn't that it's occurring - it's occurred before, obviously.

The issue is the rate at which it's occurring is increasing drastically. Just one °C was enough to actually change the course of Western civilization - we're going to overshoot that in the next 20 years.

We've already had nearly that amount of change (0.6 °C, +/- 0.2 degrees) in the time we've been discussing it, and the rate of change is increasing. The IPCC indicates we're looking at between 1.4 and 5.8 °C of warming between 1990 and 2100, and the 5-year average bears that rate out so far - we've jumped 0.1°C a decade. Even the most conservative models are looking at 1.5-4.5 degrees of change. In short, we're looking at a change that's already affecting food, water, climate, and humanity in general, and the change is getting more pronounced.

That's the issue. We're probably not going to be able to 'fix' it, but we can affect it by slowing our contribution to it, and we can adapt to it. Agricultural regions are going to shift. Climates are going to shift. We can at least prepare for it.

As my parents would say, "I don't care who did it, I don't care how it happened - just deal with it."
posted by FormlessOne at 9:07 AM on September 6, 2006


interesting thread
posted by Smedleyman at 9:46 AM on September 6, 2006


Jfuller, you are an obstinate fool.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 10:27 AM on September 6, 2006


For those of you who are imagining a lush, tropical paradise:

The species that will adapt most quickly to rapid climate change are the ones with the shortest lifespans: more generations equals more time for advantageous mutations to take hold. Insects. Microbes. Long-lived species are less likely to be able to adapt successfully. Trees, for example.

So if you're picturing Club Med at the north pole, make sure you include swarms of biting flies and locusts hovering over treeless plains. Also, all the good beaches will be underwater.

Sure, eventually the larger species will catch up, and we might indeed wind up with lush forests and so on. But for the first few thousand years, arid wasteland is probably a more accurate description.

(A friend of mine had this insight last spring, when an unusually warm winter led to massive webworm infestations here: picture entire houses coated in sticky webs and crawling caterpillars; large areas of trees completely denuded. One anomalous winter isn't indicative of global warming, of course. But it can be suggestive of the sort of results we can expect.)
posted by ook at 11:35 AM on September 6, 2006


This is not exactly NEW news... read the full depth of this in "Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate" Change which offers the complete picture on climate change.
posted by hard rain at 12:01 PM on September 6, 2006




Yeah. That's the one that caught my eye a couple years back. I think that permafrost is going to be a really, really serious problem.
posted by muppetboy at 10:45 PM on September 6, 2006


maybe many square miles of mylar could slow it down?
posted by muppetboy at 10:47 PM on September 6, 2006


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