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What Now

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The concentration of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere has reached the same level that existed during the Pliocene era, when the planet was several degrees warmer. Therefore, it’s likely that over the next few centuries Earth will heat up by several degrees Celsius above today’s temperatures. It’s also likely that the ice sheets at Earth’s poles will eventually return to their smaller, Pliocene-scale size. How quickly and by how much the ice sheets will shrink is unknown. These are among the critical questions the Pliomax team hopes to answer.

Unless humans dramatically alter how they produce and use energy, Earth may pass critical thresholds beyond which irreversible changes in the climate, in ice sheets, in ecosystems and in other important aspects of the planet may occur. Some such thresholds may already have been crossed, especially for certain vulnerable species.

Scientists can make predictions about these changes. They can suggest how to avoid them. But scientists have no more authority to recommend what should be done than anyone else on Earth. In order to confront the threats of climate change, lifestyles will have to change and investments will have to be made. You, and others like you, in the US and everywhere else on the planet, are the ones who must strike a balance between the cost of responding now and the risk of doing too little too late.

For more information about what can be done to respond to the threats of climate change, consult some of the sites below. These are just a few of many non-governmental groups advocating policies to address climate change.