For years, climate change has been a problem of the future that seemed to hold little immediate consequences. Now it looks as though the future may come a lot sooner than expected.
A report from the National Academy of Sciences released Tuesday said sudden changes in the earth's climate could occur much sooner than scientists originally calculated. The earliest changes could occur in decades, if not sooner, according to the report.
For years scientists have predicted global warming affects over the next 50 to 100 years, The Union of Concerned Scientists predicted major changes in temperature to gradually begin to change anywhere from 2030 to 2095. But the report by the National Academy of Sciences claims the climate is noticably heating up at a quicker pace than originaly predicted.
The paper emphasized the changes that are predicted to transpire the soonest: accelerated melting of the Arctic sea ice and the increased extinction of plants and animals.
"[These are] things that people in this room will be around to see," Tony Barnosky, a biology professor at the University of California, Berkeley, told the Huffington Post. He said scientists are deeply concerned about the health of the planet in the near future.
"The planet is going to be warmer than most species living on Earth today have seen it, including humans," Barnosky said.
The report revealed even the gradual changes would place a large impact on the ecosystem and the human systems when they reach a "threshold or tipping point."
"Right now we don't know what many of these thresholds are," said James White, professor of geological sciences at the University of Colorado at Boulder and chairman of the committee that wrote the report, in a statement. "But with better information, we will be able to anticipate some major changes before they occur and help reduce the potential consequences."
The report proposes the creation of an "Abrupt Change Early Warning System" that would identify "natural vulnerabilities" and allow long-term monitoring of these vulnerabilities.
The report emphasized the need to act, prepare and anticipate the changes now, rather than consider them unlikely to occur this century. "The time is here to be serious about the threat of tipping points so as to better anticipate and prepare ourselves for the inevitable surprises," the report said.