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Cogs in the climate machine

Cogs in the climate machine

A short course in planetary time, for planetary survival

This is less of a blog post, and more of a howl.

The planetary climate clock, in human time

Let’s start by some human and planetary timescales. I don’t know why we don’t learn them in grade school (I never learned them at all). But they matter. And let’s represent them visually, in a stark, plain way.

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King Canute and Queen Aelfgifu, date circa 1020, from the register of Hyde Abbey, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

“_” : this is our unit of time, and it’s 1000 years long.

_ is 10 long human lifespans, 40 generations, the time separating us from the first millennium and the Middle Ages in European history, when Canute of Denmark ruled Britain, before Marco Polo traveled the Silk Road. It’s a long time by any human account: twice the duration of the Roman Empire.

_____ is 5’000 years. It’s the age of the oldest known living tree, Methuselah, in the Californian White Mountains.

____________ is 12’000 years. It’s the time span separating us from the last ice age. This time is the time during which humans slowly selected plants, developed agriculture, cities, writing: anything we would call civilization. It is the time when humans thrived, cultures multiplied, our population grew. This clement and stable climate interval, which sheltered us and the plants we depend upon to live so well, is known as the Holocene. Gaze upon that interval fondly, for it is already in our past.

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Figure 1.2 from the IPCC’s Special Report on 1.5 degrees, showing that we have already left the temperature range of the Holocene.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

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