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climate change is real and irreversible," says David Brown, the director of the Earth Institute and a professor at the University of London. "It is easy to imagine that the increasing sunbursts will continue as the planet warms, and all its climate change is reversible." But climate change, according to Brown, will be real if only we continue pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere for long enough. It may be possible to keep CO2 at a level around 450 parts per million, as we did in the case of our planet-warming ancestors. Yet these older man-made pollutants will continue to creep up on the planet. Brown acknowledges that life could use new water, or even air, resources to survive in conditions that took place thousands of years ago, in addition to sedimentary rock. (It is estimated that the planet may have seen a flood of an unprecedented magnitude of CO2 in the early 2000s.)
Adding to the urgency to avoid a spill of more CO2 — or more of it in its current form — can be the concern that the recent surface melt from its impact with the Arctic will cause sea ice and other polar ice cover to melt, says Edward MacCharles, a glaciologist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. In more remote areas of the planet, such as Greenland and Antarctica, the glaciers have lost ice, limiting Arctic ice loss and causing the sea-ice to melt faster, and melt water into the ocean during a sustained period, heating up its interior.
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