CM – “Bad for humans”: The world will warm up to 3 degrees Celsius this century


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Our current coasts are gone. Bangkok underwater. Massive fish declines. More droughts, downpours and heat waves.


Zahra Hirji

Posted on October 30, 2021 at 9:00 am ET

There is a very real chance the planet will warm by an average of 3 degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) this century – and that would be catastrophic.

In such a brutally hot world, there are Scientists agree, deadly heat waves, massive forest fires, and devastating downpours will occur much more frequently and hit much harder than they do today. The ocean is also getting hotter and more acidic, causing fish decline and likely the end of coral reefs. In fact, a quarter of the world’s species may become extinct or head in those directions under such conditions. Our coasts would be reshaped as a result of sea levels rising foot by foot, century after century, drowning places like Charleston, South Carolina’s Market Street, downtown Providence, Rhode Island, and the Houston Space Center / p> All of that would be bad, as climate scientist Daniel Swain from the University of California in Los Angeles put it: “Bad for humans. Bad for ecosystems. Bad for the stability of the earth systems on which we humans depend for everything. « 

Experts cannot say exactly how likely this future is, because that depends on what humanity is doing to deal with the worsening climate crisis, especially in the coming decade. But for world leaders meeting in Glasgow this weekend for the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), this future could become inevitable unless they agree to more aggressive and immediate measures to limit greenhouse gas emissions. The common global goal of the Paris Agreement is to prevent rising global temperatures from rising by more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit), with a maximum of 1.5 degrees (2.7 Fahrenheit) being ideal. But right now we are on the way to almost double that – potentially catastrophic 3 degrees.

« I fear that without science-based policies and without this most ambitious goal we will face a world of 3 degrees Celsius in the course of this century » said Kim Cobb, climate scientist at Georgia Tech and one of the authors of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) latest report told BuzzFeed News. « It’s almost unimaginable, to be honest. »

The water level at Lake Tahoe has fallen below its natural edge, has fallen more than three feet, and has flown on October 17, 2021 in South Lake Tahoe, California Truckee River cordoned off.

The starting point for measuring future warming is not today – it is the late 19th century when reliable global temperature records became available. More than a century later, the planet has warmed a little more than 1 degree Celsius due to the accumulation of fossil fuel pollutants such as carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere. That’s an average, but in some places it’s gotten a lot warmer.

Adding two more degrees to the more than 1 degree we’ve already added would make our world on land much hotter and disproportionately hotter . Here’s why: About 70% of the earth is covered with water, and water warms up more slowly than land.

« If the whole world is warmed by 3 degrees Celsius, » explained Swain, « all of the land has to be warmed up heat a lot more. ”

According to Zeke Hausfather, climate scientist and energy system analyst at the Breakthrough Institute, that would probably be around 1.5 degrees Celsius warmer on average, or 4.5 degrees in total. And the Arctic, which is already warming about three times as fast as the rest of the planet, is likely to get even hotter.

One way to imagine what this might be like in the places we live in in taking into account the forecast number of days that the local temperature will reach or exceed 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 degrees Celsius). At the beginning of this century, Arizona experienced about 116 days of such high temperatures, Texas about 43 days, Georgia about 11 days, Montana about 6 days and Massachusetts only 1 day, according to the modeling of the Climate Impact Lab.

If the global temperatures were up Rising an average of 3 degrees Celsius in 2100, those numbers would extend to an estimated range of 179 to 229 days from at least 95 degrees Fahrenheit in Arizona, 135 to 186 days in Texas, 85 to 143 days in. Georgia, 46 to 78 days in Montana and 26 to 66 days in Massachusetts, according to the same analysis.

A sign points the direction of a cooling center at Kellogg Middle School in Portland, Oregon on August 14, 2021. </ Just this summer, the northwest Pacific heat wave brought Death Valley-like temperatures to British Columbia, Oregon, and Washington, killing hundreds in an event that scientists agree would have been "virtually impossible" without climate change were. Then in the middle of Tennessee, a record-breaking downpour fell about 9 inches, killing about two dozen people. And last weekend in the California capital, Sacramento, fell more than 5 inches in one day, which set a new record.

« I’m thinking about it, what would the shocking event be in a world three degrees warmer? » Said Swain .

It is impossible to know the exact answer. But the general contours of what it might look like are already clear: even more frequent and intense extreme heat events and similarly more frequent and intense rains, even in places that are likely to be drier in such a world. This applies to almost everywhere on the planet.

« There are very few places on earth where the maximum rainfall intensity does not increase, » said Swain, and later added: There are « very likely zero places where the most extreme hot days will not increase ”. . « 

Warren Montgomery attempts to cross a street after historic flooding from the Hurricane Ida storm system in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania.

Statistics from the latest IPCC report support this. What was considered a 1 in 10 year extreme heat event like a heatwave in the late 1880s would be more than 5.6 times more likely to occur in a 3 degree warmer world. The consequence could be higher electricity costs due to an explosion in air conditioning, which could cause problems with the electricity supply. Those who do not have access to refrigeration may experience more heat sickness. And then there is the problem of water scarcity; Together with sustained heat waves, they could trigger massive crop failures.

Likewise, what was previously considered a 1-in-10-year extreme precipitation event over land would occur with a more than 1.7-fold probability. These types of disasters have historically caused washed-out streets, flooded homes and businesses, and power lines.

At the same time, regional disasters will also increase in frequency and intensity. Think of prolonged droughts and major forest fires along the west coast and stronger hurricanes along the Gulf and east coasts. Worse, a phenomenon called compounding disasters could mean that such events occur in rapid succession or at the same time. A recent example of this was Lake Charles, Louisiana, which suffered several federally declared disasters within a year: consecutive hurricanes, including a devastating Category 4 storm, followed by a winter storm and then violent flooding.

In one at 3 In the warmer world, the coasts of today will have largely disappeared, and will be endlessly reduced in the coming centuries by rising seas.

By the end of 2100, sea levels will rise by an average of about 2 feet. That would be almost catastrophic for small island states. Most of the Maldives, large parts of the Bermuda Archipelago, and some of the Seychelles, including their airport, could be underwater. This also applies to large parts of the Thai capital Bangkok, in which more than 5 million people live; the Dutch cities of Amsterdam, The Hague and Rotterdam, which together have around 2 million people; and much of the US Gulf Coast, including sections of major cities like New Orleans and Galveston, Texas. These examples are based on mappings by the Climate Central research group, whose projections do not take current or future protective measures against rising water levels into account.

The water will continue to rise in the next and next century. To jump 2000 years into the future, Robert Kopp, climate scientist at Rutgers University, expects the water level to be between 13 feet and more than 9 feet above current levels. That much water would likely inundate parts of California’s Bay Area and Los Angeles and reconfigure much of the coasts of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, assuming there were no countermeasures to counter the rising water levels, according to Climate Central maps / p> « An estimated 12% of the world’s population currently living on land could be threatened by long-term sea level rise in the 3-degree scenario, » said Scott Kulp, senior computer scientist at Climate Central. « So that’s 810 million people. »

The projection to 2100 does not take into account the possibility that the world’s ice sheets will melt quickly, and even the longer-term estimates do not assume an all-out quick collapse, although it can. « The more we bring the system to over 2 degrees Celsius – but we don’t know how much – the greater the chance that we will trigger ice sheet processes that could quickly increase sea level rise, » Kopp explained in an email.

A chaparral bush is charred by the alisal fire on October 13, 2021 near Goleta, California.

Perhaps the scariest thing about a world 3 degrees warmer is the uncertainty about how it will look would affect the way our natural so-called « carbon sinks » – think plants and trees, soil and even the ocean – regularly and consistently absorb carbon dioxide from the air. If one of these sinks stopped absorbing that much carbon, more carbon would remain in the atmosphere, fueling global warming.

Or there is a possibility that one of the longer-term carbon sinks could simply go away. For example, at the moment there is a layer of frozen ground called permafrost that is spread over parts of the planet including the poles. Taken together, all of this permafrost stores more carbon than is currently in the atmosphere. As the planet warms up, the permafrost thaws, releasing some of this carbon into the atmosphere, causing further warming in a dangerous feedback loop. « Half of our emissions are currently being sent back from natural carbon sinks, the decades function for decades with the same level of service, ”said Cobb of Georgia Tech. « So, as climate scientists, it is very worrying that we are beginning to understand that there is a real risk that these natural carbon sinks will also stop working at higher warming levels. » is that, even if we think that we are on the way to a world warmer by 3 degrees under current politics, we certainly cannot rule out a world warmer by 4 degrees. ”●

A BuzzFeed News investigation in Working with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists based on thousands of documents the government did not want to see.


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