If current trends continue, some 5 trillion tons of carbon is expected to be spewed into the atmosphere over the next three centuries from human fossil-fuel burning. It will have serious consequences by warming the planet on average between 7 and 20 degrees Fahrenheit and turning the oceans acidic.
"These global changes would happen so fast they would overwhelm most natural processes and have devastating effects on plant and animal life on land and in the oceans. What we do this decade and the rest of this century will dramatically affect what happens to our planet for thousands of years to come," Caldeira cautions.
"Although centuries seem like a long time, they aren't when you look at how long it takes organisms to adapt to new conditions. What if people a few centuries ago had knowingly damaged our long-term climate and ocean chemistry for their short-term gain; what would we think of them?" he poses.
With stronger storms like Hurricane Katrina, the causes and effects of global climate change are gaining more public attention. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is hosting the 7th International Carbon Dioxide Conference in Boulder, Colorado, beginning September 26.
Experts from all over the world convene to evaluate methods used to study the CO2 cycle, describe research results, and discuss effective responses to climate change.
Caldeira's talk follows the opening address given by the Bush administration's James Mahoney, director of the U. S. Climate Change Science Pr
Contact: Dr. Ken Caldeira