Some distinct and recent possibilities deserving of dignity:
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, grouping 2,500 scientists from 130 countries, is also set to say that oceans will keep rising for more than 1,000 years even if governments stabilize greenhouse gas emissions [my emphasis].
To refrain from the mere alarmist hyperbole, note also:
The Gulf Stream bringing warm waters to the North Atlantic could slow, although a shutdown is highly unlikely, it says.
This is encouraging, as it would be hard for 'Europe' to oppose US-welfared corporate monarchs from under several feet of ice. The related Boston Review article by Kerry Emanuel, meanwhile (via woods lot), is quite informative.
Although, I'm personally a little disappointed that it neglects to mention either John Muir (for whom walking months on end upon glaciers in Alaska with wool blanket and a hunk of cheese was terrific fun), nor the distinct possibility that the gulf stream (also one of my heroes) may shut down (we don't really know) as it previously did, were Greenland to continue with its exponential melting (as all signs indicate it will, and inevitably it will, for at least half a century).
Kerry's leaf analogy is striking. It may be accurate to say, "Prediction beyond a certain time is impossible," but surely there is still ample room for informed speculative thinking about the future (without which, one should certainly argue, there is no future – by very definition – at all). Again, the mere realization of the fact of a forty-year delay is profoundly world-shattering. Recall what Chad Harbach wrote recently:
It takes forty years or more for the climate to react to the carbon dioxide and methane we emit. This means that the disasters that have already happened during the warmest decade in civilized history (severe droughts in the Sahel region of Africa, Western Australia, and Iberia; deadly flooding in Mumbai; hurricane seasons of unprecedented length, strength, and damage; extinction of many species; runaway glacial melt; deadly heat waves; hundreds of thousands of deaths all told) are not due to our current rates of consumption, but rather the delayed consequences of fuels burned and forests clear-cut decades ago, long before the invention of the Hummer. If we ceased all emissions immediately, global temperatures would continue to rise until around 2050. &nbep; This long lag is the feature that makes global warming so dangerous. Yes, this is how we would destroy ourselves – not by punching red buttons in an apocalyptic fit, but by appropriating to ourselves just a little too much comfort, a little too much time. Like Oedipus, we've been warned. Like Oedipus, we flout the warning and we'll act surprised, even outraged, when we find out what we've done.
Well I'm no scientist, and if these facts are in any way inaccurate, then I'm all ears. In any case though, one thing is crystal clear: