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

by David Archer
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Princeton University Press
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The Long Thaw: How Humans Are Changing the Next 100,000 Years of Earth's Climate

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780691136547
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 10/06/2008
Series: Science Essentials Series
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 196
Product dimensions: 5.70(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.90(d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xi
Prologue. Global Warming in Geologic Time 1
An overview of the thrust of the book: human-induced climate change in the context of geologic time, in the past and in the future.
Chapter 1. The Greenhouse Effect 15
Fourier and greenhouse theory Early CO2 measurements Arrhenius and the forecast. Climate science since then.
Chapter 2: We've Seen It with Our Own Eyes. 30
Testing the forecast Impacts already.
Chapter 3: Forecast of the Century. 45
A century-timescale climate spike Temperature, rainfall, sea level, and storms

Chapter 4: Millennial Climate Cycles. 57
Abrupt climate transitions, and climate cycles on millennial timescales. The Little Ice Age and the Medieval Optimum climates
Chapter 5: Glacial Climate Cycles 69
History of their discovery Ice flows and melts in quirky ways. Orbital forcing and CO2 forcing 69
Chapter 6: Geologic Climate Cycles. 78
Our ice age is unusual. The Earth is breathing.
Chapter 7: The Present in the Bosom of the Past. 91
Climate change so far and in the coming century, compared with deglaciation, abrupt climate change, the Eocene hothouse, the Paleocene/Eocene thermal maximum event, and the K/T boundary.

Chapter 8: The Fate of Fossil Fuel CO2 Reservoirs of carbon, breathing 101
New carbon from fossil fuels equilibrates with the ocean and the land.
Chapter 9: Acidifying the Ocean. 114
CO2 is an acid CaCO3 is a base. Neutralization takes millennia. CO2 remains higher than natural for hundreds of millennia
Chapter 10: Carbon Cycle Feedbacks. 125
The short-term prognosis. The long-term prognosis.
Chapter 11: Sea Level in the Deep Future. 137
If the past is the key to the future, we have the capacity to raise sea level by 50 meters, eventually.
Chapter 12: Orbits, CO2 , and the Next Ice Age. 149
Interplay between orbital and CO2 climate forcings. The next ice age is about to be canceled.
Epilogue: Carbon Economics and Ethics. 158
What the options are and how we decide.

Further Reading 175
Index 179

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