Re: The Long Thaw

The Long Thaw, by David Archer promises to give a long view on how global warming could affect global climate, not just in our lifetimes but as far as we can imagine. For that view, the book looks to the geological past. The periods to look at may be the Cretaceous, when the sea levels were the highest ever; or the beginning of the Eocene, when temperature spiked in as short as time as 10,000 years and slowly dropped over the next 100,000.

For such a thin book, it covers a lot of ground. It includes a discussion of the evidence for global warming, which you’d think the interested audience would already accept is real. I was more interested in the description of previous glacial cycles and how we’ve gone from fearing the return of the Ice Ages to fearing the return of the Cretaceous.

It includes the usual scary stuff: Coal running out by 2300, by which time all that carbon dioxide is in the air and acidifying the sea; Temperatures rising a few degrees C by 2100, expanding deserts and melting the Himalayan water supply. And it includes some really scary stuff about vast amounts of methane stored in clathrate water-ice at the bottom of the sea. Warming could cause a sudden release like a volcanic lake inversion writ large. Yikes!

It might not be all so bad. Warmth and carbon dioxide are good for plants, so some parts of the world might have more productive agriculture. Life on Earth has thrived in warm periods. We just don’t know how humanity will cope, let alone civilization. Maybe we’ll have to evolve into dinosaurs.

In short, it’s all grist for the mill of my evil imagination. Enjoy your snowpocalyse while it lasts.