Richard Somerville: “Climate change, irreversibility, and urgency”

On August 13, 2012, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists published a piece from our Science Director, Richard Somerville. The article, “Climate change, irreversibility, and urgency” can be found online here, and highlights from the piece can be found below.

  • Two decades after the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, most governments have agreed that limiting the increase in the average surface temperature of the Earth to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels would represent a tolerable amount of global warming.
  • But the annual amount of human-caused global emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas driving climate change, is now about 50 percent larger than in 1992.
  • A failure to reduce carbon dioxide emissions significantly within the next decade will have large adverse effects on the climate that will be essentially irreversible on human time scales.