Earth's Climate is a State Machine
The Earth's current Climate State is a function of its past state, its current physical state and its current biological state and positive and negative feedbacks. Our engineers here probably understand this right away and the light bulb just went on. For the rest of this community I am going to spell it, and try to not use any formulas. The result of this is an understandable model that explains where we are, where we are going (not good) and what options we have to change this.
I'm going to keep this simple and concentrate on the core mechanism. I assume that you understand about insolation (solar energy falling on the planet), albedo (reflectivity) and the greenhouse effect. These are the major factors effecting the Earth's Climate. There are a a multitude of solutions (surface temperature) possible based on these inputs, because the Earth has State, or as I am modelling here, a State Machine.
A State Machine is an Engineering construct. It is a description of a system in terms of inputs, outputs and internal state. There can be a very large number of states and one state changes to another by virtue of a transition equation, in a simple engineer's state machine. Some states are more stable that others.
I'm using the term "state" for multiple phenomena (sorry). The Climate State is the current state of the Climate state machine, the physical and biological states are measurements of entities on the planet, physical and biological.
The physical state:
1. Free carbon, in the environment, gasses, dissolved and otherwise
2. Short term carbon, mostly in biological entities, in the soil
3. Medium tern sequestered carbon in permafrost, glaciers and seabeds
4. Long term carbon in coal, gas and oil
(the above four are a direct result of life on the planet)
5. Landmass covered by ice, surface area and volume
6. Oceans covered by ice, surface area and volume
7. relative area of oceans v landmass
We also have to look at the biological state as this is key to understanding the mechanism.
1) Large Deciduous forests, species and distribution
2) Large Coniferous forests, species and distribution
3) Phytoplaknton, same
4) Animal mass, species and distribution
Now we have to talk about negative and positive feedbacks. Negative feedback is a system stabilizing mechanism. Your body temperature mechanism uses negative feedback. When it detects that it is below 98.6 F it signals the body to produce more heat and vice versa. Negative feedbacks amplify changes, either from inputs or internal state changes. As ice melts it gets blacker absorbing more solar energy and melting faster.
The stability of any given climate state is effected by negative and positive feedbacks present. We just exited one of the most stable epochs, the Holocene, where we had a very stable Climate State, and +/- one degree C surface temperature. I'll speculate on stability factors. As the surface temperature became slightly warmer and CO2 increased the rate of growth of the giant Deciduous forests increased, taking up CO2, and thus lowering the near future surface temperature. Same for the Phytoplankon in the oceans. Lower temperatures produced slower growth and less CO2 uptake, changing the global CO2/O2 production balance, and warming the planet. All of this depends on the physical state of the planet and the biological state of the planet. These states are in part inherited from previous epochs. The Holocene worked because the physical and biological states were optimum and stable, and ... very importantly, the feedback mechanisms were dominated by negative feedback.
After reading this you might think that the Climate of the Earth is naturally very unstable and prone to skip from state to state. The evidence from geological epochs certainly bears this out. Climate scientists are always looking for external inputs, as if the Climate were a simple flat system. It must have been an meteor or volcanoes or something. It might have been, but the Earth is perfectly capable of enormous swings in climate on its own. The PETM and the End Permian are good examples. Climate scientists are tearing their hair out trying to find the causes, since these resulted in massive die-offs, finally suggesting that it might have been multiple causes.
I'm giving you a small, but important, piece of my research. I'm working also on the conclusion, but it's going to look something like this:
We are now out of the very stable Holocene epoch and are now in the Anthropocene I epoch. This is noted by the inherited physical and biological states but a rapid transition due to the Anthropomorphic induced degradation. Interestingly this degradation is in all areas of the physical and biological state of the planet. The two primary and large changes are in release of long term sequestered carbon and the devastation of the Deciduous forests. The rate of CO2 released today exceeds all previous known release rates, in some cases by a factor of 40. We should see a significant and steady increase in the global surface temperature, seal level rise, ocean acidification and tree species population decrease and even extinction. This is unstoppable as we are now in an unstable Climate State. During this epoch, the Anthropocene I, Earth surface temperatures will increase by just under 10 degrees C.
The Anthropocene I will eventually give way to the Anthropocene II. This will be measured by significant change in the Physical and Biological state of the Planet, removing those state factors that were inherited from the Holocene and are moderating the Anthropocene I. This will clearly be the analog of the End Permian epoch, where surface temperature increase will exceed 16 degrees C. Most life will be wiped out and it will take the planet 50 million years to recover.
Can we avoid this fate? Yes, absolutely. Can we go back to the Holocene? No, definitely not. I don't have enough time and space in this essay to talk about what to do. It's getting late now and I have to go study for tomorrow's class.
I will try to follow this thread and answer your questions. Remember, I'm just an independent researcher and most of these ideas would be considered out of the mainstream thought in science.