One common argument used to dismiss evidence of man-made global warming is that the research doesn't extend back far enough. What if, climate change deniers argue, our current warming trend is part of a recurring longer term pattern that's happened naturally way back in the past, long before Adam and Eve rode their dinosaurs to the artisanal fig leaf market? Well, a new study examines the last 11,300 and finds that the speed of warming in the past 100 years is unprecedented, and by the end of this century the planet will have gotten hotter than ever.
The study, led by Shaun Marcott, an earth scientist at Oregon State University, examined 73 deep sediment and polar ice samples from around the world dating back to the start of our current Holocene period, which began some 12,000 years ago. According to the Times, they also studied indicators "like the distribution of microscopic, temperature-sensitive ocean creatures to determine past climate." What they found was that the Earth has been cooling for the past 4,000 years—until the 20th century, when it rapidly began heating up again. (Don't worry, it's probably just due to a random spike in cow methane.)
"The decade from 1900 to 1909 was colder than 95% of the last 11,300 years," according to CNN, which obtained a copy of the study. "Between 2000 and 2009, it was hotter than about 75% of the last 11,300 years." If not for man-made climate change, the Earth would have continued cooling, and the Northern Hemisphere would likely freeze over again in several thousand years. Instead, greenhouse gases will create the opposite effect, and the rapid warming will threaten the survival of many species and wreak havoc on civilization. Remember, Hurricane Sandy was only a Category One hurricane.
Dr. Marcott says that by the end of this century, the planet's temperature will rise "well above anything we've ever seen in the last 11,000 years." The National Science Foundation expects temperatures to rise between 2 to 11.5 degrees Fahrenheit. "We and other living things can adapt to slower changes,” one scientist told the Times. "It’s the unprecedented speed with which we’re changing the climate that is so worrisome." You can peruse the harrowing report in Science, which published it today (you'll have to subscribe, if you haven't already). Happy Friday!