Here’s the Reality We’re Signing Up For By Letting Climate Change Happen | Smart News | Smithsonian
Current Issue
October 2014 magazine cover
Subscribe

Save 81% off the newsstand price!

Keeping you current

Here’s the Reality We’re Signing Up For By Letting Climate Change Happen

Say goodbye to winter, New Orleans, olive oil, rivers and world peace if climate change plays out as predicted

smithsonian.com

Photo: NOAA

It’s been a pretty bummer few weeks on the climate change front. Arriving just on the heels of Hurricane Sandy, a new World Bank report points out the latest swath of depressing, seemingly inevitable statistics. As the report outlines, all of the world’s hand-wringing, missed targets and procrastination is catching up to us. Arstechnica points out a few of the more shocking truths-to-be:

The report estimates that, even if all countries are able to meet their current emissions pledges, there’s still a 20 percent chance we’ll hit 4°C by the end of the century.

What does a world that much warmer look like? To give a sense of how hard it is to imagine, the report notes some points in the last glacial period were only 4.5°colder than present temperatures—and there were ice sheets covering a lot of the Northern Hemisphere.

Gawker further explains:

In other words, we are staring down a temperature change roughly equal to the amount of change that triggered the last ice age. Think of it as the coming Age of Fire (on your house).

Typical summer temperatures would be akin to our worst on-record heat waves. Baseline temperatures for the rest of the year would be more like summer is today. And the temperature rise wouldn’t spread evenly. In the Mediterranean, temperatures will be up by roughly 9°C.

Sea levels would rise by half a meter or more, so goodbye New Jersey, Gulf Coast and countless other communities—for good. Rainfall would turn on its head, so some river basins would see 20 percent less rain while others would get dumped on.

Gawker summarizes:

There will also be ecological collapse, lowered crop yields, food shortages, and war. The reality is that what we can’t predict with certainty is even scarier to contemplate. Any of us may, in the end, just have to pack up and leave.

As Wired and Grist point out, these changes are already underway. According to NOAA, we’ve now concluded the 332nd consecutively globally warm month. If you’re 27 or younger, you’ve never experienced a month  in which the global temperature has been colder than average.

The World Bank is hoping that the report horrifies people and politicians into taking this seriously. It’s either that or we all start looking into real estate on Mars.

More from Smithsonian.com:

Climate Change May Obliterate Pandas 
It’s Easy to Ignore Climate Change 

 

Tags

Comment on this Story

comments powered by Disqus