Synopses & Reviews
"In this short book, David Archer gives us the latest on climate change research, and skillfully tells the climate story that he helped to discover: generations beyond our grandchildren's grandchildren will inherit atmospheric changes and an altered climate as a result of our current decisions about fossil-fuel burning. Not only are massive climate changes coming if we humans continue on our current path, but many of these changes will last for millennia. To make predictions about the future, we rely on research into the deep past, and Archer is at the forefront of this field: paleoclimatology. This is the book for anyone who wishes to really understand what cutting-edge science tells us about the effects we are having, and will have, on our future climate."--Richard B. Alley, Pennsylvania State University
"This is the best book about carbon dioxide and climate change that I have read. David Archer knows what he is talking about."--James Hansen, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies
"Books on climate change tend to focus on what is expected to happen this century, which will certainly be large, but they often neglect the even larger changes expected to take place over many centuries. The Long Thaw looks at climate effects beyond the twenty-first century, and its focus on the long-term carbon cycle, rather than just climate change, is unique."--Jeffrey T. Kiehl, National Center for Atmospheric Research
"A great book. What sets it apart is that it expands the discussion of the impacts of global warming beyond the next century and convincingly describes the effects that are projected for the next few thousand years. What also sets it apart is how deeply it takes general readers into the scientific issues of global warming by using straightforward explanations of often complex ideas."--Peter J. Fawcett, University of New Mexico
If you think that global warming means slightly hotter weather and a modest rise in sea levels that will persist only so long as fossil fuels hold out (or until we decide to stop burning them), think again. In The Long Thaw, David Archer, one of the world's leading climatologists, predicts that if we continue to emit carbon dioxide we may eventually cancel the next ice age and raise the oceans by 50 meters. The great ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland may take more than a century to melt, and the overall change in sea level will be one hundred times what is forecast for 2100. By comparing the global warming projection for the next century to natural climate changes of the distant past, and then looking into the future far beyond the usual scientific and political horizon of the year 2100, Archer reveals the hard truths of the long-term climate forecast.
Archer shows how just a few centuries of fossil-fuel use will cause not only a climate storm that will last a few hundred years, but dramatic climate changes that will last thousands. Carbon dioxide emitted today will be a problem for millennia. For the first time, humans have become major players in shaping the long-term climate. In fact, a planetwide thaw driven by humans has already begun. But despite the seriousness of the situation, Archer argues that it is still not too late to avert dangerous climate change--if humans can find a way to cooperate as never before.
Revealing why carbon dioxide may be an even worse gamble in the long run than in the short, this compelling and critically important book brings the best long-term climate science to a general audience for the first time.
About the Author
David Archer is professor of geophysical sciences at the University of Chicago, the author of "Global Warming: Understanding the Forecast", and a frequent contributor to the Weblog RealClimate.
Table of Contents
Prologue. Global Warming in Geologic Time 1
An overview of the thrust of the book: human-induced climate change in the context of geologic time, in the past and in the future.
SECTION I: THE PRESENT
Chapter 1. The Greenhouse Effect 15
Fourier and greenhouse theory Early CO2 measurements Arrhenius and the forecast. Climate science since then.
Chapter 2: We've Seen It with Our Own Eyes. 30
Testing the forecast Impacts already.
Chapter 3: Forecast of the Century. 45
A century-timescale climate spike Temperature, rainfall, sea level, and storms
SECTION II: THE PAST
Chapter 4: Millennial Climate Cycles. 57
Abrupt climate transitions, and climate cycles on millennial timescales. The Little Ice Age and the Medieval Optimum climates
Chapter 5: Glacial Climate Cycles 69
History of their discovery Ice flows and melts in quirky ways. Orbital forcing and CO2 forcing 69
Chapter 6: Geologic Climate Cycles. 78
Our ice age is unusual. The Earth is breathing.
Chapter 7: The Present in the Bosom of the Past. 91
Climate change so far and in the coming century, compared with deglaciation, abrupt climate change, the Eocene hothouse, the Paleocene/Eocene thermal maximum event, and the K/T boundary.
SECTION III: THE FUTURE
Chapter 8: The Fate of Fossil Fuel CO2
Reservoirs of carbon, breathing 101
New carbon from fossil fuels equilibrates with the ocean and the land.
Chapter 9: Acidifying the Ocean. 114
CO2 is an acid CaCO3 is a base. Neutralization takes millennia. CO2 remains higher than natural for hundreds of millennia
Chapter 10: Carbon Cycle Feedbacks. 125
The short-term prognosis. The long-term prognosis.
Chapter 11: Sea Level in the Deep Future. 137
If the past is the key to the future, we have the capacity to raise sea level by 50 meters, eventually.
Chapter 12: Orbits, CO2 , and the Next Ice Age. 149
Interplay between orbital and CO2 climate forcings. The next ice age is about to be canceled.
Epilogue: Carbon Economics and Ethics. 158
What the options are and how we decide.
Further Reading 175