Is Climate Change Hell Now Inevitable?


John Atcheson "stares into the Eye of Sauron" to face global warming futures.

Well, there’s a growing consensus that staying above atmospheric concentrations of 350 parts per million will permanently change our climate, and not for the better.

We’re now at 392.41 ppm and rising.

... we have already altered the climate in ways that will cost us a great deal of money, kill millions if not tens of millions, and create as many as a billion refugees by mid century. Bad as this sounds, there’s strong evidence it’s about to get a hell of a lot worse.

We know from the geologic record that runaway methane releases have occurred several times in the past.  Some 55 million years ago, during what geologists call the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, temperatures soared, as clathrates (or as they are sometimes known, hydrates) released massive amounts of carbon, mostly in the form of methane.  Many scientists believe this was triggered by volcanic releases of carbon.  Other factors may have been at play, but the key takeaway is that methane releases caused runaway warming that lasted for more than 150,000 years, and that today, humans are releasing carbon at ten times the rate that is thought to have triggered the releases.

Some 600 million years ago, geologists identified another, even more extreme event: the Permian Die-Off.... some 94% of the marine fossil record disappeared and biologic diversity plummeted. For a time, life itself teetered on the edge of extinction – all life.  Again, massive methane releases triggered by volcanic releases of carbon are the prime culprit.  And again, our current rate of releases is much faster than the one that started this devastating feedback.

 

If we have triggered a self-reinforcing methane feedbackand there is growing evidence that we have–... We will, quite literally, be inhabiting an alien environment, and our best bet is to prepare ourselves for the softest possible landing in this hostile new world.

... if we haven’t bumbled into positive feedbacks ... it would take an effort unlike any humanity has ever attempted for us to avoid catastrophic global warming and devastating ocean acidification. [emphasis mine]


While it's true the current rate of methane release is ten times faster than the two previous extinction events, and methane has 100 times the climate warming effect in the short term (it decomposes into CO2 within decades), those other outgassings went on for a very long time. It's difficult to use historical data to predict what will happen with our climate forcing rate so steep, accelerating so much faster than natural forcing. There is thermal inertia. We really are in uncharted territory. Just how inhospitable will Eaarth become, how soon, keeps me up some nights.

Tags: Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, Permian Die-Off, methane hydrate, positive feedback, runaway methane releases

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Replies to This Discussion

At least some people are beginning to name our Climate Crisis realistically. Discard the cozy-sounding "Global Warming" and even emotionally neutral and ambiguous "Climate Change".

Planetary State of Emergency on Escalating Climate Destabilization ...

Announcing the 4rd annual Universe Day.

Universe Day is an annual international event occurring each December 31st at noon through January 1st at noon.

This year the annual message of Universe Day 2013 focuses on:

1.) increasing awareness of the looming climate cliff, which is crossing the global warming tipping points leading to irreversible or extinction-level climate destabilization. (The current escalating climate destabilization is the result of human-caused carbon pollution of our atmosphere by fossil fuels.)

2.) dramatically reducing human-caused atmospheric carbon emissions on an emergency basis! To support the emergency reduction of human-caused carbon emissions the 4th annual Universe Day event declares this December 31 st to be Day One of the first Planetary State of Emergency on Escalating Climate Destabilization. (This emergency reduction of human-caused carbon emissions is Job One for of all Humanity. For emergency and non emergency actions to be taken to mitigate escalating climate destabilization see the Job One for Humanity link farther down this page .)

3.) encouraging people to stop using the terms global warming and climate change in their conversations and switch to the more accurate and useful terms of climate destabilization, irreversible climate destabilization, extinction-level climate destabilization or the looming climate cliff. [emphasis mine]

A couple of years ago at MySpace, I was discussing "Global Warming" with a woman who was concerned and realized it was a problem. But then, just before Christmas she decided to stop worrying about it because she had to bake Christmas cookies. When I protested that Global Warming was more important than cookies, she replied, "Well I'll just have to stock up on shorts and sunscreen." If the problem had been more accurately named, I think that rationalization wouldn't have seemed plausible to her.

Very cool GIF

In An Illustrated Guide to the Science of Global Warming Impacts: How ... Joe Romm says.

The single biggest failure of messaging by climate scientists (until very recently) has been the failure to explain to the public, opinion makers, and the media that business-as-usual warming results in simultaneous, ever-worsening impacts that, individually, are each beyond catastrophic, but combined are unimaginablly horrific. For these impacts, terms like “global warming” and “climate change” are essentially euphemisms. That is why I have preferred the term “Hell and High Water.” [emphasis mine]

Using euphemisms to alert people to immanent danger, are we crazy?

We need a short term that conveys "simultaneous, ever-worsening impacts that, individually, are each beyond catastrophic, but combined are unimaginablly horrific" that's not overused and trite, and has fewer syllables than Climate Destabilization.

Thanks Ruth - very educational - I will follow your links.

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