Climate Change 2001:
Synthesis Report
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Figure 5-1: The characteristic time scales of some key processes in the Earth system: atmospheric composition (blue), climate system (red), ecological system (green), and socio-economic system (purple). "Time scale" is defined here as the time needed for at least half of the consequences of a change in a driver of the process to have been expressed. Problems of adaptation arise when response process (such as the longevity of some plants) are much slower than driving process (the change in temperature). Inter-generational equity problems arise for all processes with time scales greater than a human generation, since a large part of the consequences of activities of a given generation will be borne by future generations.

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