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Realistically What Might The Future Climate Look Like?

By Climate Guest Contributor on September 1, 2012 at 11:26 am

"Realistically What Might The Future Climate Look Like?"


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If we continue forward on our current path, catastrophe is not just a possible outcome, it is the most probable outcome.”

JR: The recent scientific literature makes that conclusion crystal clear (see “An Illustrated Guide to the Science of Global Warming Impacts“). And that’s the basis of this piece explaining the rationale behind the 2°C (3.6°F) target.

by Dana Nuccitelli, via Skeptical Science

Robert Watson, former Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), recently made headlines by declaring that it is unlikely we will be able to limit global warming to the 2°C ‘danger limit’.  This past April, the International Energy Agency similarly warned that we are rapidly running out of time to avoid blowing past 2°C global warming compared to late 19th Century temperatures.  The reason for their pessimism is illustrated in the ‘ski slopes’ graphic, which depicts how steep emissions cuts will have to be in order to give ourselves a good chance to stay below the 2°C target, given different peak emissions dates (Figure 1).

ski slopes

Figure 1: Three scenarios, each of which would limit the total global emission of carbon dioxide from fossil-fuel burning and industrial processes to 750 billion tonnes over the period 2010–2050.  Source: German Advisory Council on Global Change, WBGU (2009)

Clearly our CO2 emissions have not yet peaked – in fact they increased by 1 billion tonnes between 2010 and 2011 despite a continued global economic recession; therefore, the green curve is no longer an option.  There has also been little progress toward an international climate accord to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which suggests that the blue curve does not represent a likely scenario either – in order to achieve peak emissions in 2015 we would have to take serious steps to reduce emissions today, which we are not.  The red curve seems the most likely, but the required cuts are so steep that it is unlikely we will be able to achieve them, which means we are indeed likely to surpass the 2°C target.

Thus it is worth exploring the question, what would a world with >2°C global surface warming look like?

Global Warming Impacts

The 2007 IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) summarizes the magnitudes of impact of various degrees of warming here, and graphically in Figure 2, relative to ~1990 temperatures (~0.6°C above late 19th Century temperatures).

fig spm.2

Figure 2: Illustrative examples of global impacts projected for climate changes (and sea level and atmospheric carbon dioxide where relevant) associated with different amounts of increase in global average surface temperature in the 21st century. The black lines link impacts, dotted arrows indicate impacts continuing with increasing temperature. Entries are placed so that the left-hand side of the text indicates the approximate onset of a given impact. Quantitative entries for water stress and flooding represent the additional impacts of climate change relative to the conditions projected across the range of Special Report on Emissions Scenarios (SRES) scenarios. Adaptation to climate change is not included in these estimations. Confidence levels for all statements are high.  IPCC AR4 WGII Figure SPM.2.  Click the image for a larger version.

Some adverse impacts are expected even before we reach the 2°C limit, for example hundreds of millions of people being subjected to increased water stress, increasing drought at mid-latitudes (as we recently discussed here), increased coral bleaching, increased coastal damage from floods and storms, and increased morbidity and mortality from more frequent and intense heat waves (see here), floods, and droughts.  However, by and large these are impacts which we should be able to adapt to, at a cost, but without disastrous consequences.

Once we surpass the 2°C target, the impacts listed above are exacerbated, and some new impacts will occur.  Most corals will bleach, and widespread coral mortality is expected ~3°C above late 19th Century temperatures.  Up to 30% of global species will be at risk for extinction, and the figure could exceed 40% if we surpass 4°C, as we continue on the path toward the Earth’s sixth mass extinction.  Coastal flooding will impact millions more people at ~2.5°C, and a number of adverse health effects are expected to continue rising along with temperatures.

Reasons for Concern

Smith et al. (2009) (on which the late great Stephen Schneider was a co-author) updated the IPCC impact assessment, arriving at similar conclusions.  For example,

“There is medium confidence that ~20–30% of known plant and animal species are likely to be at increased risk of extinction if increases in global average temperature exceed 1.5 °C to 2.5 °C over 1980–1999″

“increases in drought, heat waves, and floods are projected in many regions and would have adverse impacts, including increased water stress, wildfire frequency, and flood risks (starting at less than 1 °C of additional warming above 1990 levels) and adverse health effects (slightly above 1 °C)”

“climate change over the next century is likely to adversely affect hundreds of millions of people through increased coastal flooding after a further 2 °C warming from 1990 levels; reductions in water supplies (0.4 to 1.7 billion people affected with less than a 1 °C warming from 1990 levels); and increased health impacts (that are already being observed”

Smith et al. updated the 2001 IPCC report ‘burning embers’ diagram to reflect their findings (Figure 3).  On this figure, white regions indicate neutral or low impacts or risks, yellow indicates negative impacts for some systems or more significant risks, and red indicates substantial negative impacts or risks that are more widespread and/or severe.  They have grouped the various climate change consequences into ‘reasons for concern’ (RFCs), summarized below.

smith embers

Figure 3:  Risks from climate change, by reason for concern (RFC). Climate change consequences are plotted against increases in global mean temperature (°C) after 1990. Each column corresponds to a specific RFC and represents additional outcomes associated with increasing global mean temperature. The color scheme represents progressively increasing levels of risk and should not be interpreted as representing ‘‘dangerous anthropogenic interference,’’ which is a value judgment. The historical period 1900 to 2000 warmed by 0.6 °C and led to some impacts. It should be noted that this figure addresses only how risks change as global mean temperature increases, not how risks might change at different rates of warming. Furthermore, it does not address when impacts might be realized, nor does it account for the effects of different development pathways on vulnerability.

  • Risk to Unique and Threatened Systems addresses the potential for increased damage to or irreversible loss of unique and threatened systems, such as coral reefs, tropical glaciers, endangered species, unique ecosystems, biodiversity hotspots, small island states, and indigenous communities.
  • Risk of Extreme Weather Events tracks increases in extreme events with substantial consequences for societies and natural systems. Examples include increase in the frequency, intensity, or consequences of heat waves, floods, droughts, wildfires, or tropical cyclones.
  • Distribution of Impacts concerns disparities of impacts.  Some regions, countries, and populations face greater harm from climate change, whereas other regions, countries, or populations would be much less harmed—and some may benefit; the magnitude of harm can also vary within regions and across sectors and populations.
  • Aggregate Damages covers comprehensive measures of impacts. Impacts distributed across the globe can be aggregated into a single metric, such as monetary damages, lives affected, or lives lost. Aggregation techniques vary in their treatment of equity of outcomes, as well as treatment of impacts that are not easily quantified.
  • Risks of Large-Scale Discontinuities represents the likelihood that certain phenomena (sometimes called tipping points) would occur, any of which may be accompanied by very large impacts. These phenomena include the deglaciation (partial or complete) of the West Antarctic or Greenland ice sheets and major changes in some components of the Earth’s climate system, such as a substantial reduction or collapse of the North Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation.

All of these reasons for concern enter the red (substantial negative impact, high risk) region by 4°C.  Aggregate impacts are in the red region by 3°C, and some types of concerns are in the red region by 1°C.

For more details we also recommend Mark Lynas’ book Six Degrees, which goes through the climate impacts from each subsequent degree of warming, based on a very thorough review of the scientific literature.  A brief review of the book by Eric Steig and summary of some key impacts is available here.  National Geographic also did a series of videos on the Six Degrees theme, which no longer seem to be available on their websites, but which can still be found on YouTube.

This is Why Reducing Emissions is Critical

We’re not yet committed to surpassing 2°C global warming, but as Watson noted, we are quickly running out of time to realistically give ourselves a chance to stay below that ‘danger limit’.  However, 2°C is not a do-or-die threshold.  Every bit of CO2 emissions we can reduce means that much avoided future warming, which means that much avoided climate change impacts.  As Lonnie Thompson noted, the more global warming we manage to mitigate, the less adaption and suffering we will be forced to cope with in the future.

Realistically, based on the current political climate (which we will explore in another post next week), limiting global warming to 2°C is probably the best we can do.  However, there is a big difference between 2°C and 3°C, between 3°C and 4°C, and anything greater than 4°C can probably accurately be described as catastrophic, since various tipping points are expected to be triggered at this level.  Right now, we are on track for the catastrophic consequences (widespread coral mortality, mass extinctions, hundreds of millions of people adversely impacted by droughts, floods, heat waves, etc.).  But we’re not stuck on that track just yet, and we need to move ourselves as far off of it as possible by reducing our greenhouse gas emissions as soon and as much as possible.

There are of course many people who believe that the planet will not warm as much, or that the impacts of the associated climate change will be as bad as the body of scientific evidence suggests.  That is certainly a possiblity, and we very much hope that their optimistic view is correct.  However, what we have presented here is the best summary of scientific evidence available, and it paints a very bleak picture if we fail to rapidly reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

If we continue forward on our current path, catastrophe is not just a possible outcome, it is the most probable outcome.  And an intelligent risk management approach would involve taking steps to prevent a catastrophic scenario if it were a mere possibility, let alone the most probable outcome.  This is especially true since the most important component of the solution – carbon pricing – can be implemented at a relatively low cost, and a far lower cost than trying to adapt to the climate change consequences we have discussed here (Figure 4).

Figure 4:  Approximate costs of climate action (green) and inaction (red) in 2100 and 2200. Sources: German Institute for Economic Research and Watkiss et al. 2005

Climate contrarians will often mock ‘CAGW’ (catastrophic anthropogenic global warming), but the sad reality is that CAGW is looking more and more likely every day.  But it’s critical that we don’t give up, that we keep doing everything we can do to reduce our emissions as much as possible in order to avoid as many catastrophic consequences as possible, for the sake of future generations and all species on Earth.  The future climate will probably be much more challenging for life on Earth than today’s, but we still can and must limit the damage.

Dana Nuccitelli is an environmental scientist at a private environmental consulting firm in the Sacramento, California area. This piece was originally published at Skeptical Science and was reprinted with permission.

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37 Responses to Realistically What Might The Future Climate Look Like?

  1. Ken Barrows says:

    Those three graphs (as best case scenarios) are unrealistic unless not only do we stop using fossil fuels in transportation and agriculture but we find substitutes for oil in about 90% of products like golf balls, pharmaceuticals, road materials, and every product’s packaging in the local supermarket.

    • Christopher S. Johnson says:

      I dont believe so. Plastics are not really an issue. In fact, if it’s plastic then the carbon is solid and not in the air. That’s a good thing.

  2. Paul Klinkman says:

    The Republican Party has a real proposal on the table, “drill baby drill”, with over a billion dollars in election money to back it up. They Republicans seem to think that they might win. So, “drill baby drill” is the specific proposal that we need to discuss in detail.

    How many teratons of carbon are they likely to extract from the earth if the world accelerates its drilling? Expected hurricane damage extrapolating from what we know? Expected drought damage?

    Where, based on geological evidence of surprisingly fast worldwide warmups, might this take us in 50 years when the Republicans’ grandchildren are still alive, or at least most of them?

    How much of the United States will still be arable as we know it? Which red states could be Sahara-like dead zones?

    • dana1981 says:

      I’ve got a post looking at various climate policies (Romney, Obama, and international) coming up on Skeptical Science on Tuesday as well. Though again, it doesn’t quantify how disastrous the Republican policy is, just looks at why it would be a disaster, and how other energy/climate policies compare.

    • Drill baby, drill may as well be burn baby, burn.

  3. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    There are some pretty significant lags built into climate system, the biggest being how long it takes to heat up the ocean. Melting the ice soaks up a huge amount of energy. So there will be considerable warming from what we have already done.

    There is considerable masking from aerosols that will wash out within twelve months or so. Given that the aerosols hide about half the effect of the additional greenhouse gases, it is going to heat up pretty fast after we stop polluting.

    The CO2 levels are the highest they have been in millions of years, would not we expect temperatures to eventually follow suit. But that is not the whole story, there are a whole raft of greenhouse gases that we have added, some like sulfur hexafluoride do not even exist in nature.

    Because the different gasses absorb different wavelengths the absorption by the other gases is not diminished as CO2 increases.

    Net result; nasty is already locked in. Keep on as we are and we will push the bounds of survivability.

    We have the ability to turn the oceans into a lifeless, anoxic soup that only methanogens can survive in.

    We have the ability to render vast amounts of the land unliveable.

    We have the ability to make the PETM extinction event look like the Teddybears picnic.

    Do we have the ability to save ourselves?

    • Lore says:

      I use to be a glass half full kind of person. Now it’s looking more half empty day by day.

      I’m wondering when the day will come when Climate Progress moves to more articles on how to survive the unavoidable for at least as long as we can?

    • Paul Magnus says:

      Good point. Things are happening very rapidly now. (Sloshing of jug effect)

      I sincerely hope that we have higher ups planning something. There is no evidence of it though. It probably will be every man for themselves and family.

  4. Merrelyn Emery says:

    NB. These predictions are based on the same flawed linear reductionist science that has caused us to dramatically underestimate the rate of acceleration of effects. In the absence of international cooperation perhaps the least worst change we can hope for is a sharp, serious economic deterioration, ME

  5. Mike Roddy says:

    There is a reason that Lynas’ Six Degrees video summary is “no longer on National Geographic’s website”. It’s the same reason that a recent one hour NG Channel show on polar bears said nothing about retreating ice (except as a function of summer weather) or global warming: Murdoch’s Newscorp owns the National Geographic Channel.

    Koch has also invested here, as well as donating to PBS and NPR. Middle class liberals, it seems, respond to money being waved in their faces.

    The opposition has been clever not only in verbal manipulation, but in controlling content via ownership and advertiser pressure. If we don’t resist this, we’re cooked.

  6. Drat that the laws of science are non-negotiable.

    We can address this in 3 ways – we may choose to adapt, to mitigate and we can accept and bear the suffering to come.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      I refuse to bear the unbearable or suffer the insufferable simply in order to satisfy the insatiable pleonexia of the worst human types. And I absolutely refuse to impose that condition on the children and the yet unborn.

  7. fj says:

    Rapid migration to net zero mobility modalities would scale to dramatic whole system solutions unfortunately perceived as socially impossible; though not in places like China which has one-half billion cyclists where simple advances directly increase affluence and much shallower poverty traps.

  8. Curtis says:

    Oh man future generations are going to HATE us.

  9. Dan Miller says:

    If you want to hear why these graphs aren’t really possible and what we are fighting for is to avoid +4C, listen to Kevin Anderson (link in the article):


    • Christopher S. Johnson says:

      He did not say 2Cwas impossible. He said it was hard.

      • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

        Two degrees Celsius now seems far too high, for our funambulist ‘çivilization’. We certainly can survive, but it will take the greatest global collective effort ever, and would, if successful, be the making of us as a higher type of creature. Unfortunately the opposite type, the ‘wealth creators’ and plutocrats and their minions and brain-dead zombified followers, refuse to change their ways. This impasse will be broken, one way or another, and soon.

  10. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    The author plainly faced some problems in writing the above article. While the most extreme optimism bias can no longer plausibly justify the 2.0C ceiling as being viable via emissions control alone, he doesn’t want to discourage that limitation on action. Hence we’re told that ‘every little helps’ and a ceiling of 3.0C is better than 4.0C, et cetera.

    The argument is intellectually dishonest, in several regards:

    The ‘unachievable’ carbon budget of 750GT CO2 before 2050 just from fossil fuel use represents a major boost to CO2ppm – If the sinks somehow miraculously continued to consume ~43% of anthro output then at 2.1GtC per ppm we’d add about 56ppm to get well over 450ppm CO2 – and that would be around a 50% rise of anthro-CO2 above the present level. Assuming that we have only another 0.6C of warming ‘in the pipeline’, giving 1.4C after its timelag, another 50% rise will give about 2.1C of warming. This of course excludes deforestation emissions – that are liable to be driven higher by climate-hit food prices.

    Yet one of the things the author censors out is Hansen’s research on the loss of the sulphate parasol due to ending our fossil sulphate emissions. The median of his findings (which have yet to be refuted) is that its loss would unveil 110% of additional warming. Thus 2.1C + (2.1 x 110%) would equal 4.31C of warming by ending fossil fuel emissions.

    Another key item censored is that we face the loss of the Arctic Icecap in summer, and among its consequences are a heavy early boost to the ongoing acceleration of the interactive mega-feedbacks in terms of albedo loss, permafrost melt and methane hydrates outgassing, beside the acceleration of the northward migration of rainfall plus the Jet Stream depowering, that are driving the widespread loops of forest and soil desiccation and outgassing.

    So assuming we reached near-zero fossil emissions by 2050 and saw their timelagged unveiled warming reach 4.3C by say 2080, how much more should we add for the 68 years of the megafeedbacks’ interactions ? And how much more again by the century’s end ? That they would interact is certain, for they are already observed to be doing so in the arctic.

    In short, the limitation of action solely to controlling emissions is a recipe for catastrophic self-reinforcing warming – and if anyone can refute this, I’d be delighted to hear their explanation.

    The key item the author censors out is geo-engineering, in both its albedo restoration and carbon recovery forms. Since it must be assumed he’s well informed of the above issues, he would apparently rather promote a path beyond 4.3C than discuss these options’ potential. This seems so irrational that it points to some undeclared priority rather than to voluntary reticence. Without both forms’ deployment as the sufficient complements to the necessary equitable and efficient emissions control treaty, there is no longer any serious prospect of controlling the feedbacks and avoiding catastrophic warming and oceanic acidification.

    Yet perhaps the most callous of the author’s self-censorship is his repeated implications that catastrophe is a risk at the far end of the century. In reality, around 11 million people are at risk of starvation in Sub Saharan Africa in the coming months, due to intensifying serial droughts regionally and to the rise of global food prices. (According to the World Bank, in South Sudan prices are up 220%). And the West doesn’t seem all that interested – Obama will plainly cling to his ethanol mandate and 40% withdrawal of US corn if he can get away with it. For many millions of people climate catastrophe is right here this year, as they watch their livestock dying and their children weakening. The youngest tend to die first.

    The article raises three questions that need to be answered :
    - How do those in denial of the reality of the warming from feedbacks and sulphate parasol loss (to support their assertion that ending fossil fuel usage would halt the warming) rationalize their denial of well evidenced climate science – while the fossil lobby’s deniers are criticized for exactly the same fault ?
    - How many degrees C of warming, and associated climate mayhem, crop failures, species extinction etc, are readers willing to tolerate before calling for rapid well supervised albedo restoration ?
    - If we are going to need to apply albedo restoration and carbon recovery at some point, what is the point of waiting any longer than practicalities make necessary before doing so ?



    • perceptiventity says:

      Thank you for telling the whole truth “warts and all” .

      Looking forward to a full-time carier opportunities spreading chalk over the arctic.
      Let’s pray it won’t be a GULAG style operation.

  11. This article seems out of date. It’s like dire warning and a call to action for an event that has already passed.

    The arctic sea ice melt is already clearly past the tipping point with 50% of the extent and 75% of the mass gone. Even if we stopped adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere tomorrow, the ice will be gone in 5 to 15 years because of the ongoing albedo flip and the carbon and other forcers we’ve already put into the atmosphere.

    The arctic sea ice is taking the permafrost with it and opening the door to the Siberian subsea clathrate melts. Combines, these will add 15-30 percent to the CO2e content within, I’m guessing, two decades. And of course the sea ice melt is influencing the Greenland ice melt, with its sea-level-rise and thermohaline implications.

    It’s too late to urgently cut CO2 emissions in order to avoid a 2ºC scenario, though we need cut them to avoid a 4ºC scenario, which could happen by mid-century or sooner.

    If we have a snowball’s chance in hell of not simply frying the planet, it would be through rapid emission cuts AND biosequestration of greenhouse gases, possibly in the form of biochar. Politically, economically and socially, this seems unlikely. But hope springs eternal, and so long at there is hope we have to keep on trying.

    • Lewis Cleverdon says:

      Philip – having promoted the prospect of carbon recovery via coppice forestry since the ’80s, it’s very good to see support of it here on CP. Yet for all it’s a necessary component of strategy, its practical limitations imply that it’s the backstop option affecting peak CO2ppm and the rate of return to the PI level, rather than a means of preventing warming running amok.

      Consider, a global program of afforestation for biochar across the 1.6GHa.s identified by the WRI/WFN study must at best take a good 20 years in planting plus another 10 for maturing coppice to first full harvest – i.e. 30 years to full flow by say 2045 at best ?

      To recover 100ppm to get from 450 down to just 350ppm, by the best scenario I’ve seen, would take another 40 years to 2085 – and that’s only a significant cut rather than the 280ppm of PI.

      Then there is the 20 to 40yr timelag on that change of GHG influence, meaning that we’d not see the full effect of 350ppm until around 2115. And that’s With steady progress being maintained for 100 years, and Without any major additional output of CO2 from feedback sources – e.g. permafrost, forest combustion, soil desiccation, peatbog decay, etc. And just the last of these is currently on course to emit CO2 equal to the entire anthro-output of 2000 by the mid 2060s.

      This is not to belittle the importance of carbon recovery at all, but to emphasize that it cannot be relied on in combination only with emissions control to prevent the mega-feedbacks running amok in the next several decades. I’ve yet to see any other option than albedo restoration that could halt their ongoing acceleration – so I’m wondering when they’re going to be discussed in these terms here on CP.



    • It’s all about the ice cap. None of the other stuff is going to matter if we lose the ice cap, because it’ll drive the positive feedback dynamic Mr. Wenz describes.

      Hope exists, I agree. We can hope there is a negative feedback factor we’re not aware of that will limit or interrupt the positive.

      The upshot: reduce as much carbon output as fast as possible. Otherwise, all the talk of adaption is just wasted breath. If you’re not collecting Social Security right now, chances are very good that you will see a massive, global agricultural failure when the open Arctic whips the jet stream around like a snapped jump rope. March 2012 was a mild foretaste. Even with that small event, early blooms missed fertilization or were subsequently killed by colder weather or hard rain.

  12. Peter M says:

    2 degrees C as a top for warming above the PI level is possible Anderson says- but we must begin to drastically reduce our emissions NOW. Hansen and others have basically said the same thing.

    At 1 degree above the PI level- what we will see by 2020 of shortly thereafter may bring more climate horrors- but by then we will have baked into the infrastructure 450ppm and 2 degrees.

    Perhaps in 10 years, 20 at most the climate will have begun to go completely berserk- and policy will change for real emissions reductions will have begin. Will those reductions be enough?- perhaps- but we will likely still see 3.5-4 degrees with serious mitigation. Its better then 5-6 degrees. But profound changes are ahead even at the low end and more optimistic temperature rise.

  13. Spike says:

    There was aan interview with Schellnhuber some years ago on climate which touched on the need to avoid crossing the 2 degree threshold. He is very frank about the situation, perhaps because it was for a rather obscure in house journal at Siemens.

    “In his report, British economist Sir Nicholas Stern warns that the world economy is in danger. Stern says the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere must be kept below 550 ppm if global warming is to be limited to a maximum of 2 to 3 °C. Do you agree?

    Schellnhuber: Two to three degrees—that doesn’t sound like much, but it is. The temperature rise between the last ice age and the current temperate period was only five degrees, yet what a difference those five degrees have made for the world! But let me spell out in detail what the Stern Report says. Even if we meet the 550 ppm target, we will still face a 90-% probability of global warming of more than 2 °C. That’s pretty alarming. I would tighten Stern’s demand and stipulate an upper limit of 450 ppm. That way, there’s a 50-% probability that global warming will be limited to 2°C, although a 50-50 chance is not particularly reassuring either. Basically, to be sure of meeting the two-degree limit, we would have to cut emissions to below 400 ppm in the long term.

    Why two degrees? Is that, so to speak, the point of no return if we are to get a handle on global warming?

    Schellnhuber: It’s not a hard and fast line, but once we cross it, the damage becomes rapidly uncontrollable. The temperature of the planet would increase to a greater degree than at any other time during the last 20 million years—all within just one century. That would be a real roller-coaster ride for the earth, an unprecedented phenomenon.

    Would global warming that significantly exceeded two degrees really have a dramatic impact?

    Schellnhuber: Yes, it would. For a start, the sea ice in the Arctic and the ice on Greenland would melt completely, and the ice in the Antarctic would melt in part. In the long term, sea levels would rise enormously as a result. We’d have to evacuate practically all coastal areas; human civilization as we know it would have to be reinvented. What’s more, because of the direct CO2 transfer from the atmosphere, the oceans would become more acidic, and marine life would also have to adapt. Second, the atmosphere would be more heavily laden with water vapor and energy, resulting in increasingly violent storms. Third, the variation in precipitation patterns would become more extreme, meaning even less rain in places where there is already little rainfall, and vice versa. Just one consequence of this would be increasing desertification. And fourth, because of the greater temperature difference between land and sea, Europe would face the prospect of a monsoon effect.”


  14. Spike says:

    And something the economists need to get their heads araound:

    “And what would be the costs of doing nothing at all?

    Schellnhuber: At least ten times higher than the costs of protecting the atmosphere, that is to say somewhere between ten and 20 % of world GDP.”

  15. Bleekerstreet says:

    I live in New Orleans. I don’t need convincing but I can assure you that some of my neighbors will remain in denial until their last breath bubbles up from beneath the tidal surge.

  16. Leif says:

    Realistically what the world might look like, a counter view: Full employment from the poorest first, on up, mitigating the carbon bomb that the extractive generation has bequeathed us. Distributed energy to each that has potential. Carbon tax refund to those that have no resources or financial help to those that do. A cash cow in every yard. An Energy price that reflects the cost of ALL social services, (street sweeper to military), that eliminates all tax burden and puts the highest burden on the highest consumers. A truly level playing field for economic endeavors that factor the social and environmental costs of profit efforts. The list goes on but I do not like the above alternative one damn bit.

    Swim Baby, Swim… We can do it! But only if we try.

  17. The consensus of most climate scientists is likely too conservative. We are experiencing impacts now — droughts, intense storms, expanding deserts, impacts to world food supply.

    In global politics, there is significant proof that the food riots of the Arab Spring were the result of climate change induced drought. And these impacts are supposedly ‘low.’ If that’s the case, the tint on the glasses is a bit too rosy.

    Also, these broad brush pictures of ‘what the world would look like’ don’t capture reality.

    What the world looks like at 2-3 degrees C increase, long term, is deserts cover much of Europe, the US, Brazil, Africa, and large parts of Asia. Sea levels rise and coastlines destabilize. In the end, 75 feet of ocean rise is the likely result. Greenland and West Antarctica melt. This melting occurs, mainly, in pulses. Some of these pulses would be very destructive. Something on the order of tsunami and flood combined. Food is a major issue for 8-9 billion people. Starvation will be a very serious threat. Migration, poverty and hunger grip many nations. Huge impacts to Earth’s biodiversity and productivity result.

    This is just a very basic view of what a world at 2-3 degrees C would look like. Could we survive it? Probably. But it looks like a potential dark age, to say the least.

  18. ColoradoBob says:

    The real world -
    Unprecedented snow melt and heat in the European Alps

    The recent heat wave in Europe has especially been anomalous at higher altitudes resulting in some of the highest Alpine peaks in Europe being snow-free for the first time on record including the iconic peak Matterhorn.

    Early snow melt and record temps at mountain-top stations in the Alps

    On August 19th the temperature at Jungfraujoch, Switzerland (the highest railway station in Europe) reached 12.8°C (55.0°F) the warmest temperature ever measured at this site where records began in 1937. This observatory is located at an elevation of 3580m (11,745’) just above the famous railway station.