How scared should we be?

It’s important not to be an alarmist, but it’s important to be alarmed, Copeland says.
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TRANSCRIPT

Question: How scared should we be?

Copeland: You know it’s important to be . . . And I’m quoting . . . I’m quoting somebody and I can’t remember his name. But it’s . . . It’s important not to be an alarmist, but it’s important to be alarmed. Whether or not we have passed the cryptical . . . the cryptic tipping point, that is, is impossible for me to tell you. It’s impossible for most scientists to tell you. What I can tell you is that things are progressing in a way that have defined a trend. And that trend has been, in my estimation, undeniably associated with the development of the . . . of industrial activities and manmade activities associated with our use of hydrocarbon energy and our demographic growth. What I can tell you is that that growth in the carbon output into the atmosphere is non-linear. And it is not as classically progressive as what we would love to be able to see because it sort of moves forward. But the trend is definitely growing upwards, and that is just undeniable. So where is the cryptic tipping point? Well you know there’s a general acceptance in the scientific community that 550 parts per million of carbon – that is per air . . . per . . . per air – yes oxygen – is the . . . is the cryptic tipping point, and that we are presently at 430, and that we’re growing at a rate of about two parts per million per year. So this would put us at about 250 . . . 2050 as a place where if we were to exceed 250 parts per million, we would not be able . . . The increase in changes would be of such consequences that we would be thrown into an irreversible and accelerated process of warming up. I don’t necessarily believe that it’s gonna take that long. I also . . . I’m not exactly sure that we can be 100 percent certain that 550 parts is already . . . is the cryptic tipping point, because we are seeing changes that are being accelerated today in the, you know . . . how our glaciers are receding; obviously the polar cap is melting; and how different environments around the world are being impacted by a change in seasons, and by an increase in strong storms – by hurricane strength storms; by areas that are seeing, you know, an increase in drought while other areas are seeing an increase in torrential rains and whatnot. And we also know that these processes are exponential; that they’re sort of . . . They’re like a self-fulfilling mechanism, and it is confounding experts. I mean the environmental science is relatively new. It’s essentially 40 to 50 years old, and models . . . computer models are obviously becoming more and more sophisticated as our interests are being developed in that area. And what I will say is scientists are being confounded by the rate of change. So as such I am conservatively siding on the fact that they are looking at this and going look, we can project. But every year, and sometimes every six months, we are reassessing our projections. And you know the IPCC, and the UN . . . the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has made some projections which were revised within a period of six months and saw some dramatic revisions. Recorded on: 12/3/07