NEAR FUTURE: Industrial civilization continues to pump out more and more greenhouse gases with each passing year, which will result in hotter temperatures, an acidified ocean and weirder weather by century's end.
NEAR FUTURE: Industrial civilization continues to pump out more and more greenhouse gases with each passing year, which will result in hotter temperatures, an acidified ocean and weirder weather by century's end.Image: Tyler Jacobson
The carbon dioxide emitted today will affect the planet for hundreds of thousands of years.
If humanity continues to spew greenhouse gases into the air at the current rate, we will re-create the hot, wet conditions of the Cretaceous era, some 100 million years ago.
At present, humanity is altering the climate 5,000 times faster than the pace of the most rapid natural warming episode in our planet’s past.
Business, government or technology forecasts usually look five or 10 years out, 50 years at most. Among climate scientists, there is some talk of century's end. In reality, carbon dioxide dumped into the atmosphere today will affect Earth hundreds of thousands of years hence.
How will greenhouse gases change the far future? No one can say for sure exactly how Earth will respond, but climate scientists—using mathematical models built from knowledge of past climate systems, as well as the complex web of processes that impact climate and the laws of physics and chemistry—can make predictions about what Earth will look like.
This article was originally published with the title The Great Climate Experiment.