A Business Executive’s Guide to Global Warming

WBroeckerWally Broecker is the Newberry Professor of Geochemistry at Columbia University. Over the last 55 years he has conducted research on the geochemical cycles of the element carbon and on the record of climate contained in polar ice and ocean sediments. He has authored over 450 journal articles and 9 books. He is, perhaps, best known for his discovery of the role played by the ocean in triggering the abrupt climate
changes which punctuated glacial time. Broecker is a member of the National Academy of Science and recipient of the National Medal of Science.

Global warming is an issue which will dominate the environmental agenda for much of this century. As a responsible business leader, it is important that you be fully informed with regard to both the consequences and the opportunities associated with the ongoing increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide. Superimposed on all the other changes this century brings will be a shift in climate conditions which will have impacts on everything we do. Until recently, many principals of business and government have to a large extent ignored this problem. Fortunately, with the advent of Al Gore’s movie “An Inconvenient Truth,” an awakening has taken place. But, as yet, no long-term road map for carbon management has been put into place. Two scenarios bracket the course which global warming will follow. The “business-as-usual” scenario threatens a buildup of the atmosphere’s carbon dioxide (CO2) to triple the pre-industrial level. The “prudent cap” scenario involves a concerted effort to halt the increase before the pre-industrial level is doubled. In the sections which follow I attempt to lay out key aspects of this problem in a manner which I hope will be clear as well as informative.

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Current CO2 level in the atmosphere

Current CO2 level in the atmosphere


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