[I am retroactively inserting this entry in the series for the sake of completeness. Much of the content has been previously posted.]
What happens if we fail to take the following actions to reverse emissions trends starting in 2009?
- Start a cap-and-trade system that sets a serious price for CO2.
- Launch most of the 14 to 16 major mitigation strategies (wedges) described here.
- Begin a global effort to ban new coal plants that do not capture and store their carbon, an effort that quickly brings in China and other developing countries.
Failing to do that, we are headed to 800 to 1000 parts per million (ppm) of atmospheric carbon dioxide.
The idea of stabilizing at, say, 550 or 650 ppm, widely held a decade ago, is becoming increasingly implausible given the likelihood that major carbon cycle feedbacks would go into overdrive, swiftly taking the planet to 800 ppm or more. In particular, the top 11 feet of the tundra would probably not survive 550 ppm (a point I will be blogging about soon) and two other key carbon sinks — land-based vegetation and the oceans — already appear to be saturating. That said, even if stabilizing at 550 ppm were possible, it would probably bring catastrophic impacts and in any case requires implementing some 10 wedges starting now.
At 800 to 1000 ppm, the world faces multiple miseries, including:
- Sea level rise of 80 feet to 250 feet at a rate of 6 inches a decade (or more).
- Desertification of one third the planet and drought over half the planet, plus the loss of all inland glaciers.
- More than 70% of all species going extinct, plus extreme ocean acidification.
LIVING/SUFFERING IN A 1000 PPM WORLD