Surprising new evidence suggests the pace of Earth’s most abrupt prehistoric warm-up paled in comparison with what we face today. The episode has lessons for our future.
- Global temperature rose five degrees Celsius 56 million years ago in response to a massive injection of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
- That intense gas release was only 10 percent of the rate at which heat-trapping greenhouse gases are building up in the atmosphere today.
- The speed of today’s rise is more troubling than the absolute magnitude, because adjusting to rapid climate change is very difficult.