An awareness and understanding of the palaeoclimatological history of the planet allows a different construct for today’s concerns about the impact of future climatic changes.
In particular, a better appreciation of the magnitude and rate of change during the past few hundred thousand years demonstrates that the changes anticipated during the next few hundred are well within the range experienced during the Pleistocene Era.
The planet is now in a period of gradual cooling from the time of the postglacial thermal optimum 6000-9000 years ago. Temperatures are now on an irregular downward path, comparable to the Eemian interglacial, although at present we are experiencing a minor temperature increase as a partial recovery from the “Little Ice Age,” which ended 150 years ago.
Climate will always change. The planet is extremely resilient. As the most intelligent species that has colonised the surface, humans clearly have ample capability to adapt. However, our ability to do so will be limited by our political and behavioural patterns.
The well-documented evidence from the climate changes in the Northern Hemisphere during the past 1000 years indicates that changes in average global temperatures of 2°C will have significant regional impacts on precipitation and vegetation patterns and lead to further changes in sea level. From the viewpoint of the demands of an increasing global population, these could be managed, given appropriate levels of investment. Warming is definitely easier to cope with than cooling. Stability is not an option.
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Geological Perspectives of Global Climate Change
Access A Broad Range of Paleoclimatic Studies. Current debates regarding potential man-induced modification of climate make this volume especially timely. Introductory sections address the major and minor physical controls, or drivers, that affect Earth's climate. Several chapters describe the naturally occurring range of variation of climatic conditions and illustrate past changes in global temperatures. Case studies show how ancient temperature conditions are determined, as well as new techniques that have significant potential as proxies for assessing paleoclimates. Several chapters demonstrate the magnitude and length of duration of numerous temperature variations, which occurred during geologic time periods.