If you watched the opening ceremony of the Olympics, you would have noticed a segment discussing climate change, accompanied by graphics of CO2 emissions, Arctic sea ice melting, sea level rise and a somewhat familiar spiral representation of rising global temperatures (above), a version of which you may have seen somewhere before.
The Earth hasn’t always been struggling with global warming. Around 34 million years ago at the Eocene-Oligocene Transition (EOT) the Earth was undergoing a period of global cooling. This significant shift in climate led to the formation of the first permanent ice sheets of the Cenozoic Era over Antarctica, as shown by the dramatic shift (in a geologic sense) in the oxygen isotope records . The cooling, likely a result of declining atmospheric carbon dioxide levels but potentially also coinciding with Southern Ocean gateway changes, turned Antarctica from a green forested continent to the land of ice we know today. This is illustrated with an image of how this world might have looked.
The largest impacts of increases in temperature will not be experienced due to changes in the mean, but by changes in the extremes. This is illustrated using UK heatwaves to show that the number of days which will require preventative action will increase by roughly a factor of 6 for a 2ºC increase in summer temperatures. Continue reading Extreme UK heatwaves→