In a recent study published in Nature Geoscience, a team of scientists from 17 countries suggests that global warming could be twice as warm as climate models predict, with sea levels expected to rise up to six meters, possibly more. The research was based on three similar events over the past 3.5 million years.
Studying the past could help us predict the future
In order to reach such conclusions, the scientists looked at three well-documented warm periods in the recent history of Earth, when the temperature was 0.5°C-2°C higher than it was before the industrial revolution. The warm periods observed by scientists in the study were caused by different factors. Two of them (5,000-9,000 years ago, so-called Holocene thermal maximum and 129,000-116,000 years ago, known as the last interglacial) were the results of predictable changes in the Earth’s orbit, while the third one (3.3-3 million years ago, the mid-Pliocene warm period) was caused by concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere similar to those of today.
The research seems to suggest that the target of 2°C set in Paris might be too small to help us avoid the devastating consequences of global warming.
The possible consequences of global warming
According to the researchers, these three studied warm periods can show us the type of changes we should expect on Earth with the progress on the current global warming. The rising temperature will cause the melting of the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets, which in turn will result in sea levels higher by at least six meters. As it happened before, vast forests might replace tundra, high altitude habitats could partially disappear and the biggest desert on Earth, Sahara, could become green again.
The study concludes that even though our current climate models seem to be trustworthy on a short-term, the long-term effects of global warming are greatly underestimated. It is crucial to address these changes now, because soon it might be too late.
Brad is a former Senior Fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University, is an award-winning travel, culture, and parenting writer. His writing has appeared in many of the Canada’s most respected and credible publications, including the Toronto Star, CBC News and on the cover of Smithsonian Magazine. A meticulous researcher who’s not afraid to be controversial, he is nationally known as a journalist who opens people’s eyes to the realities behind accepted practices in the care of children. Brad is a contributing journalist to Advocator.ca