Most of the policy debate surrounding the actions needed to mitigate and adapt to anthropogenic climate change has been framed by observations of the past 150 years as well as climate and sea-level projections for the twenty-first century. The focus on this 250-year window, however, obscures some of the most profound problems associated with climate change. Here, we argue that the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, a period during which the overwhelming majority of human-caused carbon emissions are likely to occur, need to be placed into a long-term context that includes the past 20 millennia, when the last Ice Age ended and human civilization developed, and the next ten millennia, over which time the projected impacts of anthropogenic climate change will grow and persist. This long-term perspective illustrates that policy decisions made in the next few years to decades will have profound impacts on global climate, ecosystems and human societies — not just for this century, but for the next ten millennia and beyond.
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P.U.C. and A.C.M. acknowledge support from the US National Science Foundation (Project PALEOVAR; AGS-0602395). M.E. and A.J.W. are grateful for ongoing support from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Cananda (NSERC) through its Discovery Grant programme. G.A.M. acknowledges support from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the Canada Research Chairs Program. A.L. acknowledges support from the German Science Foundation (DFG) project GZ: LE 1448/6-1. S.A.M. acknowledges support from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Graduate School. R.T.P. acknowledges support from the Kung Carl XVI Gustaf 50-Årsfond. B.D.S. was supported by the US Department of Energy under contract DE-AC52-07NA27344. T.F.S. and P.L.P. acknowledge support from the Swiss National Science Foundation.
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
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Clark, P., Shakun, J., Marcott, S. et al. Consequences of twenty-first-century policy for multi-millennial climate and sea-level change. Nature Clim Change 6, 360–369 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2923
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