Sunday, November 15, 2009

New Study: Current CO2 Levels Could Result in Much More Dramatic Sea Level Rise Than Thought

As the U.S. Senate fiddles and the world puts off agreeing to a legally-binding global treaty, proponents of climate change solutions just got a new, alarming piece of data supporting their calls for bold action.  Writing in the esteemed journal, Science, experts say a new historical record of carbon dioxide levels suggests that even current political targets on climate may be "playing with fire". 

Reports the BBC:

Researchers used ocean sediments to plot CO2 levels back 20 million years. Levels similar to those now commonly regarded as adequate to tackle climate change were associated with sea levels 25-40m (80-130 ft) higher than today.

"What we have shown is that in the last period when CO2 levels were sustained at levels close to where they are today, there was no icecap on Antarctica and sea levels were 25-40m higher," said research leader Aradhna Tripati from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA).

"At CO2 levels that are sustained at or near modern day values, you don't need to have a major change in CO2 levels to get major changes in ice sheets," she told BBC News.

According to Jonathan Overpeck, who co-chaired the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) work on ancient climates for the organisation's last major report in 2007, this provides a more accurate look at how past CO2 values relate to climate than previous methods.

"This is yet another paper that makes the future look more scary than previously thought by many," said the University of Arizona scientist.

"If anyone still doubts the link between CO2 and climate, they should read this paper."

This is pretty breathtaking -- powerful new evidence that we're approaching critical thresholds regarding the stability of Antarctica and Greenland ice sheets.  Do we really want to find out what happens if the best the U.S. can do ends up being a "compromise" bill with CO2 targets that scientists tell us are inadequate?

In that case, there's a significant risk we'll be spending a whole lot of effort and money on strategies that could well fail to prevent catastrophic impacts to civilization as we know it.  Isn't it better to get it right now, and avoid the potentially devastating costs of failure?

America can do better.  Perhaps those of us working to insure a happy ending to the climate change saga just need to get more vocal -- about reminding those currently in power about the campaign promises they made to us.  

A message to Congress and President Obama: focus on results, and you'll get re-elected.  Focus on getting re-elected rather than on achieving results, and you may well be shooting yourself in the foot.

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