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Study reaffirms human impact on climate

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Island Nation of Kiribati Affected by Climate ChangeEven at this late and perilous date in the history of climate change, we have to keep proving it. Over and over. So here we go again, courtesy of TckTckTck and EcoWatch.

A new study published in Nature Geoscience has found that global temperatures were warmer between 1970 and 2000 than any other 30-year period in the last 1,400 years.

The research, compiled by 73 scientists from 28 institutions worldwide, is the most comprehensive reconstruction of global temperatures to date. It used corals, ice cores, tree rings, lake and marine sediments, historical records, cave deposits and climate archives to help establish temperature trends over the last 2,000 years.

The researchers examined more than 500 different sets of temperature records from all continents except Africa, where the evidence is still incomplete.

And while results could vary widely across continents, the research confirmed that a long period of cooling, between 1580 and 1880, was halted by a sharp reversal in the late nineteenth century. It also confirmed that the 30-year period between 1970 and 2000 was the warmest on land in at least 1,400 years.

While the research found that natural variability, such as volcanic eruptions and changes in solar irradiance can—and has—imprinted on the global climate systems to cause cooling historically, it once again affirms that these natural causes of climate variability do not and cannot explain the most recent period of global warming.

The timing of the warming period correlates directly with an increase in carbon emissions from human activity over the same period and broadly confirms this ever-growing message from climate scientists: climate change is happening, it is caused by humans and billions of people will fall victim to it without urgent action.

Got it? Must I be a constant nag about this? I will you know…

On a related and even more somber note, did you know that 75 years ago an amateur scientist, Guy Stewart Callender, made the breakthrough discovery that linked global warming to carbon dioxide emissions?

This was largely unnoticed at the time, of course, but two scientists are commemorating his work this month, with a paper examining his legacy, as related by TckTckTck. Professor Phil Jones, from the University of Anglia in Norwich, and Dr. Ed Hawkins, from the University of Reading, examine the discovery that became known for a time as the ‘Callender Effect.’

Ironically (and perversely), the anniversary of this breakthrough comes as concentrations of atmospheric CO2 emissions are poised to pass the ominous milestone of 400 parts per million (ppm), and as diplomats gathering in Bonn, Germany this month continue to struggle to find ways to cut emissions.

Callendar, born in Montreal in 1898, made all his calculations by hand in his spare time, decades before the effects of global warming became widely debated. He was the son of the English physicist Hugh Longbourne Callendar, who studied thermodynamics. A steam engineer by profession, the younger Callendar’s research first appeared in the quarterly journal of the Royal Meteorological Society in April 1938.

Jones, of the UEA’s Climatic Research Unit, and Hawkins, from Reading’s National Centre for Atmospheric Science, had their commemorative research paper on Callendar published in the same journal this month. “Callendar was the first to discover that the planet had warmed,” said Jones.

Callendar put climate change on the calendar eight decades ago and to our ever-lasting shame we’ve spent all that time since either ignoring or endlessly debating the issue. Tick-tick-tick.

Image: Climate Change Effects in Island Nation of Kiribati by United Nations Photo via Flickr CC

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Written by William DiBenedetto

2 May, 2013 at 3:00 am

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  1. […] Even at this late and perilous date in the history of climate change, we have to keep proving it. Over and over. So here we go again, courtesy of TckTckTck and EcoWatch. A new study published in Nature Geoscience has found that global temperatures were warmer between 1970 and 2000 than any other 30-year period in the […] wrdforwrd Read Original Post […]


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