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think warnings about climate change are overblown?
Below is a chart whose implications I think everyone should try to grasp. It shows the relationships between carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and temperature for the last 430,000 years from Antarctic ice cores and from data from the last century. Temperature doesn't respond in lock-step with the changes in gas concentration. In fact, coming out of the ice ages, the temperatures generally started to rise first, driven mainly by changes in the Earth's orbit and the angle of the tilt of the Earth's axis. But the rise in greenhouse gases strongly reinforced the warming, making temperatures rise
higher, and for longer, than they would have otherwise. Temperatures have now risen by around 0.8ºC since pre-industrial times and about another 0.6ºC is coming down the pipe because of gases we've already emitted. The consequences of average temperatures rising above 2ºC are horrendous,
as shown here and here and as you can explore for yourself here. As the chart below suggests, we have a serious problem on our hands.
Note that temperature is measured in terms of deviations from the average from 1880-1899,
which is set to zero. Carbon dioxide is measured in parts per million (ppm) and methane is
measured in parts per billion (ppb). Kyr = “thousands of years”.
Source: Hansen, J.E., (2005) "A Slippery Slope: How Much Global Warming Constitutes
"Dangerous Anthropogenic Interference"?" Climatic Change, Vol. 68, No. 3, February,
pp. 269-279; p. 271.
& Development Research Unit
Clayton, VIC, 3800
Tel: +61 (0)3 9905 5843
Email: Brett.Parris [at] monash.edu
School of International & Political Studies
Faculty of Arts and Education
221 Burwood Hwy
Burwood, VIC, 3125
I will be teaching a number of units in Deakin's
Master of International & Community Development