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Climate Is Easier To Predict Than Weather

by Mary J Metzger
Since the demise of the dinosaurs, 65 million years ago, there has been a long-term gradual cooling of earth’s climate.
     Hot tropical forests that once covered most of the earth gave way to grassland savannahs in Africa. Our ancestors went from a primarily fruit to tuber/root and meat diet.
     This may have contributed to a larger brain, which helped us cope with the many fluctuations of climate that were to come in the long Ice Ages. Natural solar cycles caused these fluctuations. Humans adapted with clothing, tools, fire, and dispersal to more habitable places.
     On September 19 Fitchburg State University Professors Benjamin Lieberman and Elizabeth Gordon spoke at Ayer Library on “Climate Change in Human History”, the title of a textbook they wrote for their interdisciplinary History and Geoscience class.
     Lieberman and Gordon explained that for the last 10,000 years, called the Holocene Period, the climate has been relatively stable. All of farming and civilization developed during this period, with benefits and sufferings for humans. Tremendous growth in population led to specialization and to endemic diseases. Some groups were affected by local fluctuations in climate, especially drought. But wealthy and prosperous human groups were more resilient with the ability to store or transport food and adapt to colder temperatures with new heating technologies.
     But Lieberman and Gordon say this stable time is ending. The Industrial Revolution, with its use of fossil fuels, was established by the 1820s. Its spread across the whole world has made people the major influence of climate.
     Since the 1960s there has been an increasing rate of global warming. This is directly related to the amount of CO2 (carbon dioxide) in the air. CO2 was first measured at 312 parts per million in 1958 at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii. In May 2019 it reached 411 ppm. CO2 is released by the burning of fossil fuels. Deforestation also contributes to a rise in CO2.
     “The evidence is everywhere,” says Lieberman. “The past 416 months have had a higher temperature than the norm for the twentieth century, though not everywhere on earth is seeing the same changes. The polar regions have the most rapid warming, while much of the rest of the earth are experiencing extremes in temperature and precipitation. Only 5-10% of the change can be explained by natural causes.”
     Lieberman and Gordon say there are several possible pathways to addressing climate change from “Business as Usual” to more radical solutions. But “we are going to experience global warming whatever we do now. We can extract, extract, extract or move in another direction. The later we make changes, the more unforeseeable its consequences.”
     “Climate is easier to predict than weather. We have enough data to be confident in our climate predictions. If there is any uncertainty in the models, it’s that they are underestimated.”
     In the third free of the Climate Preparation series, “Resilience and Emergency Preparedness Tips”, Ayer Firefighters will discuss how households can prepare for possible weather and other emergencies, Thursday, September 26, at the Ayer Library, 6:30 p.m.
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