Earth Is Now Warmer Than It's Been In 120,000 Years


Earth is already hotter than it has been in the past 120,000 years – and it’s going to get far, far worse, a new study suggests.

As part of her doctoral dissertation at Stanford University, Carolyn Snyder, now a climate policy official at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, created a continuous 2 million year temperature record, much longer than a previous 22,000 year record.

Snyder based her reconstruction on 61 different sea surface temperature proxies from across the globe, such as ratios between magnesium and calcium, species makeup and acidity.

But the further the study goes back in time, especially after half a million years, the fewer of those proxies are available, making the estimates less certain, she said.

"Warmest in 120,000 years"

Temperatures averaged out over the most recent 5,000 years – which includes the last 125 years or so of industrial emissions of heat-trapping gases – are generally warmer than they have been since about 120,000 years ago or so, Snyder found.

She said if climate factors are the same as in the past -- and that's a big if -- Earth is already committed to another 7 degrees or so (about 4 degrees Celsius) of warming over the next few thousand years.

“This is based on what happened in the past,” Snyder said. “In the past it wasn’t humans messing with the atmosphere.”

Four outside scientists praised the study's tracking of past temperatures, with caveats about how less certain it is as it gets deeper into the past.

Jeremy Shakun of Boston College said "Snyder's work is a great contribution and future work should build on it.

But many of the same scientists said Snyder’s estimate of future warming seems too high.

Shakun called it unrealistic and not matching historical time periods of similar carbon dioxide levels.

Even an increase of 3C, in the long-run, would unleash a maelstrom of climate change impacts.

This includes storm surges engorged by rising seas, deadly heatwaves, and severe flooding, experts claim.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says climate change skepticism is over, after the US joined China to ratify the Paris agreement to curb climate-warming emissions.

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