We typically think in terms of a decade, perhaps a century, when considering anthropogenic global warming and its impacts but that's just us doing what we do best - thinking in terms of "us." We're a very us-centric bunch. That limits the scope to us, the kids, the grandkids and maybe just a smidgen of concern for great-grandkids too. After that, not so much.
From The Washington Post:
A large group of climate scientists has made a bracing statement in the journal Nature Climate Change, arguing that we are mistaken if we think global warming is only a matter of the next 100 years or so — in fact, they say, we are locking in changes that will play out over as many as 10,000 years.
“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 civilization thus far,” write the 22 climate researchers, led by Peter Clark, from Oregon State University.
The key reason for this is that carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere for a very long time before being slowly removed again by natural processes. “A considerable fraction of the carbon emitted to date and in the next 100 years will remain in the atmosphere for tens to hundreds of thousands of years,” the study noted. Meanwhile, the planet’s sea levels adjust gradually to its rising temperature over thousands of years.
We’re currently emitting about 10 gigatons of carbon per year — a number that is still expected to rise further in the future. The study therefore considers whether we will emit somewhere around another 700 gigatons in this century (which, with 70 years at 10 gigatons per year, could happen easily), reaching a total cumulative emissions of 1,280 gigatons — or whether we will go much further than that, reaching total cumulative levels as high as 5,120 gigatons.
The good news is that the authors believe that, at some point, mankind's predicament will become sufficiently perilous that we will develop some technology for stripping atmospheric carbon dioxide - if, by then, we can afford what will probably be a massive cost. The better news is that, if we do get to that point, the people with the greatest wealth will be those on the hook to clean up the very mess that they in fact made.