It keeps getting scarier

Reader Contribution by Michael Kelberer
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A new report from the World Bank — not your typical group of alarmist tree-huggers, eh? — has this to say:

1. The consensus for a decade now has been that we have to avoid going over 2 degrees Celsius of global warming at all costs. The report says that even if all emissions-reductions commitments are kept, we’ll blow by that limit on our way to 4 degrees Celsius (that’s over 9 degrees Fahrenheit) of warming by the end of the century. If those commitments aren’t kept, and so far we haven’t come close, we’ll hit 4 degrees by 2060. (Not in the report, but extrapolating out, we would then hit an incredible 8 degrees of warming by the end of the century. The last ice age was only 5 degrees of temperature change.)

2. The impact of a 4-degrees-warmer world will be “unprecedented heat waves, severe drought, and major floods in many regions, with serious impacts on human systems, ecosystems, and associated services.”

3. Trends: the observed changes in climate have been escalating, not stabilizing and certainly not slowing down.

What will the 4-degree world look like? According to the report:

1. Extreme heat — with consequences (heat-related deaths, forest fires, harvest losses) that “could be expected to vastly exceed the consequences experienced to date, and potentially exceed the adaptive capacities of many societies and natural systems.” 

2. Rising sea levels — expect a rise of 0.5 — 1 meter (that’s more than 3 feet) at a minimum, with several meters more in the centuries to follow (there’s a lot of momentum in climate change — we can’t just shut it off today and expect things to return to normal tomorrow).  You’ve seen the maps — this affects a huge percentage of the area where we human beings live.

3. Everything we rely on for our daily lives will be affected: clean water, crops, food animals, even just the ability to travel around safely. Life as we know it, basically, will be drastically altered, mostly for the worse.

Remember — this is the forecast for only 4 degrees of warming.

Any hope? 

The report states what we’ve known for the last two or three decades, that we have the “technical and economic” means to avoid the worst impacts of global warming. It even holds out hope we can keep the warming below 2 degrees if we act in time. 

I don’t share that hope — the 2 degree number was a politically chosen one and, at the time it was chosen, the full effects of feedback loops was not incorporated into the scientific models.

Besides, the technology and money won’t help if we don’t have the political will to use them. So far, it’s been nearly completely lacking. Let’s hope the Climate Change talks going on in Doha this week get us started on the path.

You can get the report here: World Bank Report