In the absence of dramatic new global energy strategy, the damaging climate of carbon emissions will grow and persist for millennia, projects new research.
Rising global temperatures, ice field and glacial melting and rising sea levels are among the climatic changes that could ultimately lead to the submergence of coastal areas that are home to 1.3 billion people today, the study said.
The international team of scientists generated new scenarios for temperature rise, glacial melting, sea-level rise and coastal flooding based on state-of-the-art climate and ice sheet models.
"This long-term view shows that the next few decades offer a brief window of opportunity to minimize large-scale and potentially catastrophic climate change that will extend longer than the entire history of human civilisation thus far," the study said.
The new projections are based on leading research into contemporary and historical climate data, but also new scientific reconstructions of the only comparable period in human history: the last Ice Age.
"This is the most comprehensive look at global climate in the past, present and future," said study co-author Jeremy Shakun from Boston College in Massachusetts, US.
"What our analysis shows is that this era of global warming will be as big as the end of the Ice Age. And what we are seeing is a massive departure from the environmental stability civilisation has enjoyed during the last 10,000 years of its development," Shakun noted.
The study was published online in the journal Nature Climate Change.