The lack of an adequate ancient analogue for future climates means that we ultimately must use and trust climate models, evaluated against modern observation and our best geologic records of warm and cold climates of the past. Armed with an elevated confidence in the models, we will then be able to make reliable predictions of the Earth's response to our risky experiment with the climate system.
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I thank R. Alley, M. Arthur and R. Pierrehumbert for their constructive criticism of drafts of this commentary. Research on ancient environments by L.R.K. at Penn State is supported by grants from NSF Biocomplexity, Geology and Paleontology, and NASA Astrobiology programmes.
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Subtropical freshwater phytoplankton show a greater response to increased temperature than to increased pCO2
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