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Climate Change Economics

by Climate Change Economics LLC

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Our glaciers are shrinking

Problem for Republican lawmakers
in the new Congress of the United States

Editorial by Barry Piacenza

Climate Change Economics LLC - November 12, 2010

Since a number of Republicans are saying that they deny climate change is due to man-made interventions or disputing facts, the scientific discovery within this editorial and the accompanying substantial evidence would allegedly place them in a problematical position.

The National Academy of Science in a report entitled Climate Stabilization Targets: Emissions, Concentrations, and Impacts over Decades to Millennia Committee on Stabilization Targets for Atmospheric Greenhouse Gas Concentrations; National Research Council; 2010 states the following- The following is from the executive summary:

The report concludes that the world is entering a new geologic epoch, sometimes called the Anthropocene, in which human activities will largely control the evolution of Earth’s environment. Carbon emissions during this century will essentially determine the magnitude of eventual impacts and whether the Anthropocene is a short-term, relatively minor change from the current climate or an extreme deviation that lasts thousands of years. The higher the total, or cumulative, carbon dioxide emitted and the resulting atmospheric concentration, the higher the peak warming that will be experienced and the longer the duration of that warming. Duration is critical; longer warming periods allow more time for key, but slow, components of the Earth system to act as amplifiers of impacts, for example, warming of the deep ocean that releases carbon stored in deep-sea sediments. Warming sustained over thousands of years could lead to even bigger impacts (see Box ES.1). FIGURE

FIGURE ES.1 Recent studies show that cumulative carbon dioxide emission is a useful metric for linking emissions to impacts. Error bars reflect uncertainty in carbon cycle and climate responses to carbon dioxide emissions due to observational constraints and the range of model results. Cumulative carbon emissions are in teratonnes of carbon (trillion metric tonnes or 1000 gigatonnes).


Widespread coastal flooding would be expected if warming of several degrees is sustained for millennia. Model studies suggest that a cumulative carbon emission of about 1000 to 3000 gigatonnes (billion metric tonnes carbon) implies warming levels above about 2°C sustained for millennia. This could lead to eventual sea level rise on the order of 1 to 4 meters due to thermal expansion of the oceans and to glacier and small ice cap loss alone. Melting of the Greenland ice sheet could contribute an additional 4 to 7.5 meters over many thousands of years.

The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone is president of the National Academy of Sciences.


1 Concentrations, and Impacts over Decades to Millennia
Committee on Stabilization Targets for Atmospheric Greenhouse Gas Concentrations; National Research Council 2010

Portions of thie editorial copyright © National Academy of Sciences. Permission is granted for this material to be shared for noncommercial, educational purposes, provided that this notice appears on the reproduced materials, the Web address of the online, full authoritative version is retained, and copies are not altered. To disseminate otherwise or to republish requires written permission from the National Academies Press.