Consequences of twenty-first-century policy for multi-millennial climate and sea-level change

Peter U. Clark, Jeremy D. Shakun, Shaun A. Marcott, Alan C. Mix, Michael Eby, Scott Kulp, Anders Levermann, Glenn A. Milne, Patrik L. Pfister, Benjamin D. Santer, Daniel P. Schrag, Susan Solomon, Thomas F. Stocker, Benjamin H. Strauss, Andrew J. Weaver, Ricarda Winkelmann, David Archer, Edouard Bard, Aaron Goldner, Kurt LambeckRaymond T. Pierrehumbert, Gian Kasper Plattner

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

324 Citations (Scopus)


Most of the policy debate surrounding the actions needed to mitigate and adapt to anthropogenic climate change has been framed by observations of the past 150 years as well as climate and sea-level projections for the twenty-first century. The focus on this 250-year window, however, obscures some of the most profound problems associated with climate change. Here, we argue that the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, a period during which the overwhelming majority of human-caused carbon emissions are likely to occur, need to be placed into a long-term context that includes the past 20 millennia, when the last Ice Age ended and human civilization developed, and the next ten millennia, over which time the projected impacts of anthropogenic climate change will grow and persist. This long-term perspective illustrates that policy decisions made in the next few years to decades will have profound impacts on global climate, ecosystems and human societies-not just for this century, but for the next ten millennia and beyond.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)360-369
Number of pages10
JournalNature Climate Change
Issue number4
Early online date8 Feb 2016
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 30 Apr 2016


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