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Study: Climate change happening 10 times faster than any time in past 65 million years

File photo courtesy: Moyan Brenn/Flickr

File photo courtesy: Moyan Brenn/Flickr

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    Friday, August 2, 2013, 4:53 PM -

    Climate change is 'accelerating', undergoing some of the largest changes recorded in the past 65 million years, Stanford scientists say.

    Researchers warn that the calculated rate of change over the next hundred years will be at least 10 times faster than previous climate shifts. This could place "significant stress" on the planet's ecosystems.

    "We know from past changes that ecosystems have responded to a few degrees of global temperature change over thousands of years," said study co-author Noah Diffenbaugh in a statement, "but the unprecedented trajectory that we're on now is forcing that change to occur over decades. That's orders of magnitude faster, and we're already seeing that some species are challenged by that rate of change."

    Human activity appears to be a major contributor to accelerated climate change. 

    Researchers say that some aspects of the transformation are now unavoidable, due to the greenhouse gases that have already been emitted into the atmosphere.  However, some of the more dramatic changes could be stalled or avoided completely with a few adjustments from mankind.

    "There are two key differences for ecosystems in the coming decades compared with the geologic past," Diffenbaugh said. "One is the rapid pace of modern climate change. The other is that today there are multiple human stressors that were not present 55 million years ago, such as urbanization and air and water pollution."

    The findings have been published in the current issue of Science.

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