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What If It Takes 1000 Years?

Updated on May 9, 2017
jackclee lm profile image

I am a retired engineer and scientist who has expertise in digital image processing and are engaged in other disciplines like climate change


Climate change or global warming is a complex issue. It is complex because of two factors. It is a global event and therefore involves many cycles and mechanisms that are interrelated. There are positive and negative feedbacks that also come into play. Second, it is an event that plays out over decades or even longer time scale.

- Apr. 2017


Learning from our past will guide us going forward. That is a good rule of thumb. We always teach history in our schools so that we can learn from them. It is hoped that we will not make the same mistake twice.

In the case of climate change, we have to do a better job of studying and understanding our past. I am referring to not just the last few hundred years but a few hundred thousand years. The reason is our planet's climate has always been changing. We know from studying ice cores that our planet has undergone many cycles of ice ages and warming cycles. We have some theories on how they occur due to the planetary motions... however, we don't know the mechanics of it.

Some scientists has proposed some radical theories such as Velikovsky who believes that our planet have been influenced by periodic catastrophic events. These are the reason for our current states. His controversial book "Worlds in Collusion" in 1950 was proven to be correct years later even though at the time, it was rejected by the majority of the scientific community.

In studying past ice ages, we need to understand what the trigger is. Next, we need to understand the rate of change. How fast can events happen? Finally, we need to understand what event causes it to reverse? Apparently, it seems to repeat naturally every 100 thousand years or so. Why?

The reason we need to understand this is directly tied to the current climate change debate. What if the climate scientists are correct in their theory of the greenhouse effect? And yet, wrong on the projections of "abrupt" changes due to human induced global warming?

In the fossil records, we know of these natural climate cycles. We know it takes approximately 1000 years to change course from cooling to warming naturally. What we don't know is the causes exactly. Is it a slow incremental event such as the slight planetary motion that creates a slight warming or cooling from one year to the next? Or a drastic event such as an asteroid strike like the one that killed off the dinosaurs 65 million years ago? Or a super volcano on earth that produces so much ash that blankets the globe for a few years that may trigger a cooling cycle?

Glacier National Park

A Theory...

Here is a theory that may be explored and so far has not been addressed by climate scientists. What if it takes 1000 years for change regardless of causes? That is to say, the size of the earth has such a mass and a momentum that it takes 1000 years to change course.

Here is a personal observation. I will use snow in my area of the northeast to illustrate. In the winter here, we get a lot of snow fall. Sometimes we get 2 feet of snow within a 24 hour period. In our shopping malls, they plow the parking lots and pile up the snow into a mound 10 feet tall. This is so shoppers can park their cars. These mounds will sit there till early Spring even when the temperature is now 60 plus degrees. Even though the local environment has warmed drastically, the snow will take a long time to melt away.

If you extend this same theory to the whole planet, you will realize that the same rule applies. We have ice in the poles and glaciers that are mile high. The time frame required to melt that is a very long time. I am sure some scientists can compute roughly how much energy is needed to melt the poles for example to create a 20 feet rise in our oceans. Indirectly, we can determine the time frame assuming we have a warming climate of 2 degrees C. This is the current best estimate of AGW for the next 30 years.

What am I driving at? Here we are worried about climate change due to humans use of fossil fuel. Al Gore goes around the world warning us of pending disaster. He also produced an award winning documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" that is being shown to all grade school students. What if the problems he highlighted does not fit with reality? What if, even if we continue with our fossil usage, the planet will warm by a few degrees C and yet, the dire consequences are not as bad or happen as quickly as he proposed.

Let's explore the possibility of 1000 years. What if that is a physical limitation. Regardless of how hot our planet gets, such as in previous warming periods, it will take 1000 years or so for the full effect to show up. Interesting?

What will be our response? To explore this further, let's go back in history. 1000 years ago, in 1017, what was the planet like for us humans? That was the middle ages in Europe. The new world has not been discovered. China was an empire called "the Middle Kingdom" ruled by the Jin Dynasty and Egypt was ruled by Rome after many dynasties of Pharohs...

If the planet will be affected negatively in 1000 years, such as a global rise of the oceans by 20 feet, it will be hard but not life threatening. The slowness of these changes will allow humans to adapt. We can relocate our coastal cites inland. Florida map will be redrawn and the same applies to Manhattan. As the earth warmth, some areas on the globe will become affected positively such as Greenland. Others obviously will be affected negatively with increased heat and drought. Again, humans are very good at adapting. We will move to where the climate is conducive to crops and away from desserts.

Ocean Rise 1880 - Present (EPA)


If all else being equal and unchanged, the projected ocean rise of 20 feet will take about 2000 years. Approximately 1 foot per every 100 years.

2001 - A Space Odessey


As a race, we humans are very adaptable and ingenious. We invent technologies to help make our lives easier. We adapt to our environment and in some cases, we change the environment artificially to accommodate us. The invention of air conditioning makes living in hot humid regions more hospitable. As we speak, there are people working on colonizing Mars. Who knows? In 50 years, we may be living on space stations as 2001 A Space Odessey portrays or on moon bases or even Mars. The problems of climate change will be mitigated due to our technologies. We may have time on our side.

A Summary of a talk by Jeff Severinghaus 3/31/2017

I attend a talk at the Lamont Doherty Observatory last week. It was a talk by Jeff Severinghaus, a professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. His talk was about - "What we Have Learned About Our Future From Ice Core Studies of the past?"

It was refreshing to attend a talk with some balance in its presentation. Most talks are related to climate change and human induced effects. This talk actually presented a more balanced view.

Here is the 4 main points he made. The overriding message is that climate change will affect the next generation or even the next next generation on the order of 100 years.

He presented 2 points that are not so good and 2 points that are actually good news.

The first is that Antarctica was 11 degrees C colder in the last ice age.

The second, his studies confirmed that rain belts shifts north and south due to climate change. This would have negative effect on our food production...drought will lead to failed states and conflicts.

AMOC - Atlantic Meridian Overturning Circulation would not be affected by climate change. That is a good thing. This would keep the North Atlantic warm.

Carbon 14 and CH4 study shows there were no fossil release of Methane gas when ice shelf melts. Again this is good news for reduced greenhouse gases.

The other message I took away from his talk was when climate scientists use the term "abrupt" changes, they are speaking in the time frame of 30 years. Not the time frame we are typically familiar with.

He also was blunt in saying we still don't know why ice ages come and go every 100,000 years or so.

His last admission was that the scientific community estimate a range of 1.5 degrees C to 4.5 degrees C for a doubling of CO2 concentration. That is a big range in 35 years of research, they have not been able to make a better prediction than that.

© 2017 Jack Lee


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    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 

      3 years ago from Camden, South Carolina

      Oops, overlooked an earlier post. Since it's substantial, let me respond in detail.

      "Doc, what makes you so sure extreme weather and drought will be the most damaging?"

      I'm not sure. But it is my assessment, based upon projected effects (and effects that we have already observed, as well, such as the drought/civil war/refugee crisis in Syria/the Middle East/Europe.)

      "In all our human history, it can't be true that 1990s weather is the optimal for our planet."

      Why not? Some time has to be optimal. However, the reality that we are facing is that we are on course to take the planet to temperature/circulation regimes that we have literally never encountered during our existence as a species. Obviously, none of our carefully bred food crops have, either. In that context, it doesn't much matter whether you take 1990's, 1890's, or the best days of the Roman Empire to be 'optimal.' The result is the pretty much the same.

      "To think we can preserve the climate of earth at one time period and call it the "normal" or ideal is crazy."

      Nobody is advocating that we attempt to preserve today's exact conditions unchangingly. For one thing, nobody that I am aware of thinks that is even possible. However, the evidence indicates very clearly that it would be wise to stop providing an extreme 'tilt' to planetary temperature equilibrium.

      "When the next ice age comes in 50,000 years, if humans are still living, we will move to a warmer climate and rebuild our cities long before that happens.

      "How is that any different than 2017?"

      I think you will agree that there is a considerable difference between migrating most of our existing infrastructure over 50,000 years and doing so over, say, 100 years.

      "Please take a close look at a map of our globe and see where humans reside today. The vast majority of people cluster around a few large metropolitan cities of Beijing, NY, Tokyo, Bombay..."

      All of which are threatened by one or more of the effects of climate change...

      "The rest of the terrain is very sparse. We can easily move to another region, if the coastlines change. Yes?"

      You may think that moving all those people and all that built environment is 'easy.' I do not.

      "You need to think outside the box. There is not just one solution to climate change. Fossil fuel will be with us a long time. It is economics 101. It is not what we wish to be true but what is true."

      Perhaps it is you who is boxing himself in? You say that the use of fossil fuels is 'economics 101', by which you presumably mean that they are cheap relative to their convenience, flexibility and legacy position in our technology and social structures.

      However, economics is structured around accounting methods. And those current methods are known to be flawed, in that they do not consider all relevant costs of fossil fuel use--what economists call 'externalities'.

      The good news is that that is relatively easy to fix, using market-friendly methods such as carbon fee-and-dividend/rebate, or carbon markets (though both, and especially the latter, have to be structured correctly to work).

      Adequately address externalities, and you change the result that 'economics 101' arrives at.

      For example, observe the range of outcomes for different policy choices in this EIA analysis (remembering that the EIA's DNA is all traditional energy, and that these analyses don't cover cases such as I discussed above):

      It's interesting to watch the transformation of the electrical generation system. It appears that renewables will be the new 'backbone' of generation in coming decades, as it persistently accounts for the majority of new capacity being added--and that on a global basis.

      This recent post from the EIA also has some interesting tidbits to chew on:

    • jackclee lm profile imageAUTHOR

      Jack Lee 

      3 years ago from Yorktown NY

      Doc, what makes you so sure extreme weather and drought will be the most damaging? Or just another dire projections?

      In all our human history, it can't be true that 1990s weather is the optimal for our planet. We humans have adapted to the climate regions, not the other way around.

      What I men by that is we build cities and societies and communities that is best accommodated by the climate of the period. At one time in our past, Greenland was much warmer than today. If things stayed the same, we would have colonized Greenland and build a large city and farms...

      To think we can preserve the climate of earth at one time period and call it the "normal" or ideal is crazy.

      When the next ice age comes in 50,000 years, if humans are still living, we will move to a warmer climate and rebuild our cities long before that happens.

      How is that any different than 2017?

      Please take a close look at a map of our globe and see where humans reside today. The vast majority of people cluster around a few large metropolitan cities of Beijing, NY, Tokyo,


      The rest of the terrain is very sparse. We can easily move to another region, if the coastlines change. Yes?

      You need to think outside the box. There is not just one solution to climate change. Fossil fuel will be with us a long time. It is economics 101. It is not what we wish to be true but what is true.

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 

      3 years ago from Camden, South Carolina

      "No one is disputing that CO2 causes greenhouse effect and warming."

      I wish that were true, but I run into people all the time who do in fact question (or deny) just that. Not saying you are... but trust me, others certainly do.

      To my knowledge, there is still a lot of uncertainty about the timing of sea level rise. Not all of it is due to scientific uncertainties: since our actions can still affect the planet's temperature trajectory, it follows that until our actions (or lack thereof) are determined, the trajectory can't be either, and hence neither can the trajectory of sea level rise.

      That, of course, is the reason for the use of scenarios which posit various emissions trajectories. But even within each scenario there's quite a bit of uncertainty remaining--for instance, RCP 8.5 has a probable range of 2.6-4.8 degrees C.

      But the biggest uncertainty is the effect of ice dynamics. There's a lot of research going on there, and hopefully we'll know more in the next couple of years, but while we are pretty sure that dynamic effects can vastly speed up the dissolution of ice sheets and the flow rates of glaciers, quantifying the results closely is still a work in progress. So things are certainly worse than the IPCC estimates, which don't figure much dynamic effect in, pending better information, but it's difficult to say just how much worse.

      All that said, I think that sea level rise is not the most immediately drastic threat. IMO, hydrological changes--extreme precipitation events and droughts, primarily--are more dangerous, through their direct effects on agriculture and their indirect effects on human societies. (Eg., Syria.)


    • jackclee lm profile imageAUTHOR

      Jack Lee 

      3 years ago from Yorktown NY

      doc, No one is disputing that CO2 causes greenhouse effect and warming. The question some are asking is what percent of the warming we see today is human caused and more importantly, how long will it takes to reach the critical point - such as rising oceans and other dire effects. My question about the rate has not been answered satisfactorily by climate scientists. Perhaps you can find out from yours sources. How long will it take the glaciers to melt to cause a 20 feet rise in global ocean level?

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 

      3 years ago from Camden, South Carolina

      The business about CO2 rise lagging warming during deglaciation is 100% and 100% misleading.

      That is, it is known that warming will increase CO2, because warmer temperatures cause outgassing in both marine and terrestrial environments, for a number of reasons ranging from the chemistry of seawater to the biological activity of microbes. So, if the environment warms, yes, we'll see more CO2 in the atmosphere. And in fact, that is observable in the Antarctic ice cores, which conveniently provide direct evidence of CO2 concentrations and indirect evidence (through isotopic studies) of temperature changes.

      However, that does not mean that CO2 does not cause warming. That fact is well established from theoretical, laboratory, and observational studies going back a century and a half. And in fact, the observed warming during deglaciation can only be accounted for if you factor in the warming influence of the rising CO2 levels. That is why, during the glacial cycles of the Quaternary period, CO2 is not considered a "forcing", but rather, a "feedback"--it didn't initiate warming, but was important in reinforcing it.

      Today, of course, we have a completely different situation. Rising CO2 is not caused by the observed warming, but by human emissions, as shown by several distinct lines of evidence ranging from accounting of sources and sinks, to isotopic study of atmospheric carbon, to an observed decline in atmospheric O2 (don't worry, it's tiny in percentage terms, and so poses no threat to the biota).

      Finally, far from 'climate scientists ignore this fact,' it is a fact *discovered and publicized by climate scientists*. For example:

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      I enjoyed your hub and as always, Buildreps responses. If Buildreps is as correct as he is adamant, well, we read him here first.

    • Buildreps profile image


      3 years ago from Europe

      Jacklee, I won't turn your Hub into a Q&A forum but the warming we see today has nothing to do with carbon gases or methane. It's all a lie. Carbon and Methane lag behind on temperature changes somewhere between 800 and 2,000 years. So, it's the result and not the cause. When the oceans warm, carbon is released, when it cools down it absorbs carbon. That is why you see a relation between temp and carbon.

      Climate scientists ignore this lagging stubbornly, because if they wouldn't they are clueless what else could cause the huge fluctuations. The cause of the ice ages appear to be crustal displacement in the latitudinal direction. The displacements take place over a period of about 25,000 to 60,000 years depending on the eccentricity of Earth's orbit around the Sun. A large eccentric orbit appear to make the crust to crawl due to an oscillating pull force. That is the reason the Milankovitch cycles (eccentricity) fits so perfectly over the ice age graphs. It's so easy that scientists cannot believe what I have discovered. It will still take many years before my theory is accepted by mainstream science. But it will, in time.

      There are some very mild indications though that the crust has been started to crawl very slowly after being stable for about 60,000 years. If that is true, its bad news for humanity, very bad news. Humanity might become extinct within 50,000 years.

    • Dont Taze Me Bro profile image

      Banned cause of PISSANTS Promisem and Dean Traylor 

      3 years ago

      Elon Musk, a prime example of the elite who could care less about the human race as it exists on earth or he and the rest of the 1% would be doing something about it here on earth before chasing a pipe dream of relocating to Mars. His plan isn't to save the human race, it's to save himself and maybe the elite. Forget about those who live in hell on earth, he doesn't care to change that, only to escape from it.

    • jackclee lm profile imageAUTHOR

      Jack Lee 

      3 years ago from Yorktown NY

      Buildreps, wow that is great information. I was hoping some scientists or physicists can do the math. It should not be too hard to figure this stuff out in 2017. Perhaps our focus on fossil fuel is misguided? Perhaps mitigating climate change by other means is a better way to go?

    • Buildreps profile image


      3 years ago from Europe

      Interesting ideas and observations, Jacklee. I totally agree with your title! It takes even much more time.

      The heat of fusion as it is called is the amount of energy necessary to transform ice into water. It takes for one kg of ice 334kJ to transform it into water, and I'm even not talking about the energy to warm the ice from -30°C (or even much colder) up to the melting point. All the icecaps together have a volume of around 30 million km3. The estimated amount of energy to melt all the icecaps is a staggering 10^24 J. The Earth receives annually about 3.6^24 J of solar energy effectively on the surface.

      So if ALL solar energy would go to only the transformation of ice to water, it would take about 3 years to melt all the ice. But...

      The ice is at a location that receives hardly any solar energy - the poles. This energy is transported by the Gulf streams, that transport it from the equator to the poles. Air has compared to water hardly any "power" to melt ice, it needs solely be supplied by the Gulf streams.

      Ironically, the ice is lying on land. Due to the immense weight of the ice it pushes itself very slowly to the edges where it falls off and meets the Gulf stream. This process is so slow that it will never happen within 1,000 years. It will still take some 4,000 years to melt the Greenland ice sheet, and about 10,000-15,000 years to melt the Antarctic ice sheet. That's the science.

    • jackclee lm profile imageAUTHOR

      Jack Lee 

      3 years ago from Yorktown NY

      Tell Elon Musk... He is planning on colonizing Mars so as to create a safe haven when earth is destroyed by mankind...

    • Dont Taze Me Bro profile image

      Banned cause of PISSANTS Promisem and Dean Traylor 

      3 years ago

      "As a race, we humans are very adaptable and ingenious." True, and we are also, as a race, very evil and I think when you think of the human race you only have in mind the tiny fraction of the "civilized" (for lack of a better word) world. By our standards the vast majority of the world, of the human race, is still uncivilized and so as a race "in totality" I would say not much better than the animals on the earth.

      Mars? Yeah we've done such a great job with the human race here let's take it to Mars? Or how about spending 8.8 billions on another telescope, the JWST which will be 100x more powerful than the HST.

      Exactly how will these ventures into space help to advance the human race here on earth, the real human race, not just the elite of it? The billions and billions of human beings here are starving while the privileged of this race waste trillions of dollars on space adventure, for what, to satisfy their curiosity? Is there life out there? So far away, even if there was, there is nothing, absolutely nothing we could do about it or why would we even want to? Meanwhile the human race right here on earth is degenerating before our very eyes. Seems to me this is a race, and if that term includes all human beings, this is a race that has no regard for itself as a race and as a race is glad to cannibalize itself solely to satisfy the whims of some of it's race's imaginations.


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