Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The final countdown

Time is fast running out to stop irreversible climate change, a group of global warming experts warns today. They suggest we have only 100 months to avoid disaster. Here is a great article that warns that we need to act now (well with 100 months anyway).

Andrew Simms
The guardian
Friday August 1 2008

The Final Countdown

"in just 100 months' time, if we are lucky, and based on a quite conservative estimate, we could reach a tipping point for the beginnings of runaway climate change."

"The concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere today, the most prevalent greenhouse gas, is the highest it has been for the past 650,000 years. In the space of just 250 years, as a result of the coal-fired Industrial Revolution, and changes to land use such as the growth of cities and the felling of forests, we have released, cumulatively, more than 1,800bn tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere. Currently, approximately 1,000 tonnes of CO2 are released into the Earth's atmosphere every second, due to human activity."

"Because of such self-reinforcing positive feedbacks (which, because of the accidental humour of science, we must remind ourselves are, in fact, negative), once a critical greenhouse concentration threshold is passed, global warming will continue even if we stop releasing additional greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. If that happens, the Earth's climate will shift into another, more volatile state, with different ocean circulation, wind and rainfall patterns. The implications of which, according to a growing litany of research, are potentially catastrophic for life on Earth. Such a change in the state of the climate system is often referred to as irreversible climate change."

"So, how exactly do we arrive at the ticking clock of 100 months? It's possible to estimate the length of time it will take to reach a tipping point. To do so you combine current greenhouse gas concentrations with the best estimates for the rates at which emissions are growing, the maximum concentration of greenhouse gases allowable to forestall potentially irreversible changes to the climate system, and the effect of those environmental feedbacks. We followed the latest data and trends for carbon dioxide, then made allowances for all human interferences that influence temperatures, both those with warming and cooling effects. We followed the judgments of the mainstream climate science community, represented by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), on what it will take to retain a good chance of not crossing the critical threshold of the Earth's average surface temperature rising by 2C above pre-industrial levels. We were cautious in several ways, optimistic even, and perhaps too much so. A rise of 2C may mask big problems that begin at a lower level of warming. For example, collapse of the Greenland ice sheet is more than likely to be triggered by a local warming of 2.7C, which could correspond to a global mean temperature increase of 2C or less. The disintegration of the Greenland ice sheet could correspond to a sea-level rise of up to 7 metres."

"In arriving at our timescale, we also used the lower end of threats in assessing the impact of vanishing ice cover and other carbon-cycle feedbacks (those wanting more can download a note on method from But the result is worrying enough."

For regular suggestions for what individuals and groups can do to take action, and links to a wide range of organisations supporting the focus on the 100 months countdown, go to:

The Green New Deal can be downloaded at


No comments: