Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Burning all fossil fuels could lead to global warmth not seen in 65 million years

Burning all known reserves of oil, gas and coal would inject about 5.5 trillion tons of heat-trapping carbon into the atmosphere, mainly in the form of carbon dioxide, a team wrote in the journal Nature Climate Change. This number is about ten times the 540 billion tons of carbon emitted since the start of industrialization and would be reached near the end of the 22nd century if fossil fuel trends go unchanged.

The world could heat up by as much as 18 degrees in the next three centuries. This would be as warm as when dinosaurs roamed the Earth about 65 million years ago. In that scenario, most of the planet would be unlivable for humans, and all of the major coastal cities of the world would disappear into the ocean. Global sea levels would rise as much as 60 meters (200 feet)

A 60m sea level would certainly submerge the Statue of Liberty
Even if humanity manages to drastically curb its use of oil, gas and coal, Nature could add massive amounts of greenhouse gases all by itself. Hundreds of billions of tons of carbon, mostly in the form of methane, are locked in the increasingly misnamed permafrost of the sub-Arctic region.

Beyond a certain threshold - and no one knows what that is - global warming could irretrievably unlock these methane reserves. This is just one of many 'tipping points'.

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