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WTF? We just experienced 4,000 years of global warming in two decades

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  • As the International Energy Agency recently warned: "the world is perfectly on track for a six-degree Celsius increase in temperature. Everybody, even the schoolchildren, knows this is a catastrophe for all of us."
  • International Monetary Fund director states bluntly that with rapid action on climate change today’s kids will be “‘Roasted, toasted, fried and grilled”
  • Lord Nicholas Stern who authored the groundbreaking UK government report in 2006 now says he "got it wrong on climate change – it's far, far worse … This is potentially so dangerous that we have to act strongly. Do we want to play Russian roulette…”
  • The World Bank recently published a report titled "Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must be Avoided" with the hope that it would "shock us into action." It warns "the world is barreling down a path to heat up by 4 degrees at the end of the century if the global community fails to act on climate change, triggering a cascade of cataclysmic changes … there is also no certainty that adaptation to a 4°C world is possible … If there is no action soon, the future will become bleak”

In other words, if we keep expanding coal, oil and natural gas emissions then the temperature chart is going to have to grow ten times higher to show the gigantic temperature spike today's children will be subjected to. Generation Hot. Sorry kids…your parents’ generation are acting immorally, so it might be a good time to lawyer up.

Speed kills

Climate deniers often point out that the Earth has been this hot before so it can’t be a big problem.

What this ignores is that the primary climate threat to humans and the ecosystems we depend upon is the rapid rate that temperature is changing. As the famous "hockey stick" climate scientist Michael Mann told Joe Romm on his must read Climate Progress blog:

"The real issue, from a climate change impacts point of view, is the rate of change—because that’s what challenges our adaptive capacity."

The more rapid the changes, the less likely we can adapt to them. Nature and humans have adapted to slow climate changes. Rapid climate changes however have been harsh times of collapse.

To help visualize the past rate of temperature change, I created the chart below from the same data. Like the previous chart it has a global temperature line, which is faded to grey in this version. On top of this I've plotted the warming or cooling at each point in time relative to the two decades before it:

Where did all that energy come from?

To produce such an extreme planet-wide temperature spike requires a lot of energy.

One of the world's top climate scientists, Dr. James Hansen of NASA, calculates that our current global warming is equivalent to the energy of 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs being exploded every day.

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