The future of a globally warmed world has been revealed in a remote meteorite crater in Siberia, where lake sediments recorded the strikingly balmy climate of the Arctic during the last period when greenhouse gas levels were as high as today.
Unchecked burning of fossil fuels has driven carbon dioxide to levels not seen for 3m years when, the sediments show, temperatures were 8C higher than today, lush forests covered the tundra and sea levels were up to 40m higher than today.
"It's like deja vu," said Prof Julie Brigham-Grette, at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, who led the new research analysing a core of sediment to see what temperatures in the region were between 3.6 and 2.2m years ago. "We have seen these warm periods before. Many people now agree this is where we are heading."
"It shows a huge warming – unprecedented in human history," said Prof Scott Elias, at Royal Holloway University of London, and not involved in the work. "It is a frightening experiment we are conducting with our climate."
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