Climate is the global pattern of environmental conditions and weather, and is always in a state of dynamic equilibrium. The equilibrium state of the moment shifts as the spectrum of geophysical and geochemical factors affecting it shifts. A diminution of one factor, perhaps solar radiance, or the amplification of another, perhaps carbon dioxide gas in the atmosphere, may in turn alter the proportions of additional factors such as humidity, glaciation and reflectivity. The new spectrum of determining factors will cause the dynamic system called climate to drift toward a new state of stability that is consistent with that new spectrum. This planetary dance of earth, wind, fire and water involves many interlocking cycles whose scales span from the minuscule to the monumental, and whose periods span from the ephemeral to the enduring. The leavings, lost heat and outgassing of humanity are just a few of the many factors in the dynamic spectrum affecting climate. Its enduring dance about equilibrium easily takes account of our force of displacing it, and the dance neither loses rhythm nor momentum. Can we also do the same, adjust humanity’s cycles and patterns to mesh with an as yet incompletely known trajectory of climatic change? The very first step to addressing this question is recognizing that it exists, and accepting it as the fundamental challenge of our time. Do you think we will?
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24 January 2013, 6.33am AEST