Lynas’ outlines the effects on the planet of climate change equivalent to a global temperature rise of one, two, three, four, five and six degrees with reference to a vast library of scientific reports and study.
The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
- Average global temperatures have risen 1 degree with most in the last 40 years
- 1-6 degree increase is possible over the next century.The last time the temperature changed 6 degrees was when England plunged 6 degrees 18,000 years ago in the last ice age
- It’s not just a temperature change but a vast change in the way that world works. Global warming is playing out in terms of decades, rather 1,000 or millions of years. The rate of change now is unprecedented.
Global warming stems from rise in C02 gases deriving from our lifestyle. C02 increase is in correlation with rise of fossil fuels – coat, oil and natural gas over the last 250 years. That’s 98% of our energy.
Gases (methane, C02, water, ozone, nitrous oxide) get stuck in the greenhouse effect.
- Glaciers, ice caps, water
Africa’s three highest peaks will have lost half their glacial area compared to 1987. This will affect downstream water supply, wildlife and bio-diversity.
The Arctic “tipping point” is coming. Already:-
– World temperature has risen 0.7°C over past 10 years
– We have lost permafrost that has led to the draining of 10,000 lakes worldwide
– each year an extra 10,000 sq km of ocean is created from melting artic ice-sheet
– In Sept 2005, an area of the arctic ice sheet the size of Alaska vanished. Snow and ice reflects 80% of sun’s heat whereas the dark ocean absorbs 90% of the sun’s heat.
Rock-falls will be widespread in alpine regions due to loss of alpine permafrost which will have implications for population settlements in those regions.
Hurricanes The increase in hurricane activity is due to warmer oceans
In 2004 the first ever hurricane in Brazil in the southern hemisphere, a certain sign of climate disturbance
Hurricane Vince landed in Huelve, Spain, the first tropical cyclone ever recorded in Europe.
Hurricanes in 2005 (Katrina, Wilma, Rita, etc.) killed 1000 people left 1,000,000 homeless and caused $200 billion damage
Return of the “Mid-west American dust bowl” but with greater vengeance. Shortages of grain and wheat in the west
Coral reefs already in serious danger. Some 70% of reefs world-wide are dead or dying.
Tropical Attols threaten the lives of H million people on Tuvalu (probably lost already), Kribati, Marshall Islands, Tokelau and the Maldives.
- Glacier, ice caps, water
Changes in the biosphere are no longer gradual. Increase temperatures melt the polar icecaps, this accelerates warming. Water from the melt is able to absorb more sun and heating intensifies.
Glacial melt rates will double. Greenland’s glaciers disappearing. One particular Greenland glacier has already thinned by 15 meters every year since 1995 and the flow rate has doubled.
If the entire Greenland ice sheet were to melt (possible with 2° though it would take perhaps 140 years) then Miami, Manhattan, London, Bombay, Bangkok, and Shanghai, to name but a few, would be inundated. Tuvalo Pacific Islands lost.
The disappearance of mountain glaciers and snowpack will create water shortages in the Indian sub-continent, Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia (by 2050 the Andes glaciers will have shrunk by 40% – 60%
Crippling droughts can be anticipated in Los Angeles and California. From Nebraska to Texas the anticipated drought would be many times worse than the 1930s “dust bowl” phenomenon.
Polar bears would probably become rapidly extinct.
The tundra would disappear releasing massive volumes of methane (a major greenhouse gas)
- Weather – Heatwaves.
In Europe in 2003 35,000 people died prematurely due to heat related illnesses
Crop losses were $12 billion
Forest fires cost $1.5 billion
With 2° warming summers like 2003 will occur almost every other summer.
Wildfires may penetrate as far north as the Baltic coast.
Some areas would benefit – Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin – where yields might double. Canada will be a net beneficiary.
Citrus growers in Miami may benefit provided they are not hit by hurricanes.
In the UK sweet corn, soft fruits and vegetables may benefit.
But maize, a staple for so many will suffer particularly in Central and South America
Most of Africa will suffer loss of production
US soybean production will be cut by 50%
International food price stability will have to be agreed to prevent widespread starvation.
The Mediterranean countries will become drier and hotter with significant water shortages.
Sea level rise may affect the homes of millions around the world as the sea invades low lying cities. IPCC estimate sea level rise of 18 to 59 cms. Many say the figure will be more.
Monsoons would increase in India and Bangladesh leading to mass migration of its populations.
- Other items. Temperate climate moves north. The pine beetles will kill off white bark forest, a food for the polar bears which are threatened at 2 degrees
- Glaciers, ice caps, water
The Himalayan glaciers provide the waters of the Indus, Ganges and Brahmaputra, the Mekong, Yangtze and Yellow rivers. In the early stages of global warming these glaciers will release more water but eventually decreasing by up to 90%. Pakistan will suffer most, as will China’s hydro-electric industry.
Snow caps on the Alps all but disappear
In the Arctic 80% of sea ice will have melted.
Amazonian rain forest basin will dry our completely with consequent bio-diversity disasters. Trees help generate 50% of water for rainfall. They are more susceptible for fire which will become a cycle . Drought->Fire->Drought
In Brazil, Venezuela, Columbia, East Peru and Bolivia life will become increasingly difficult due to wild fires which will cause intense air pollution and searing heat. The smoke will blot out the sun.
Drought will be permanent in the sub-tropics and Central America
Australia will become the world’s driest nation. Days when the temperatures exceed 40° will increase sixfold, the drought frequency will triple and rainfall plummet by 25% with extreme winds. Australia’s main rivers for water supply will lose between 25% and 50% of their flow. Perth particularly vulnerable.
The western seaboard of the US will be especially vulnerable to drought.
Snowmelt will reduce dramatically. Snowless Springs, hotter summers, harsher droughts and wild fires without water to fight them will become common-place.
By contrast, New York will have too much water! It will be subject to storm surges. Sea levels are already 25cms higher. At 3° sea levels will rise to up to 1 meter above present levels. A 1 in a 100 year storm will happen every 20 years by 2050 and every forth year by 2080.
In London, too, although the Thames Barrier will continue to give some protection, a 1 in 150 year storm will occur every 7 or 8 years by 2080.
In the US Gulf of Mexico high sea temperatures will drive 180+ mph winds. Houston will be vulnerable to flooding by 2045. Galveston will be inundated.
- Weather In the “three degree scenario, Africa will be split between the north which will see a recovery of rainfall and the south which becomes drier. This drier southern phase will be beyond human adaptation. Wind speeds will double leading to serious erosion of the Kalahari desert.
The last time the world experienced a three degree temperature rise was during the geological Pliocene Age (3 million years ago). The historical period of the earth’s history was undoubtedly due to high CO2levels (about 360 – 440ppm – almost exactly current levels)
Likely to see major increase in activity of the so-called “el nino” effect. In such a scenario, the following are likely:-
UK can expect drier winters
Indian monsoon rains will fail. Monsoons are essential to 60% of the world’s population. In a 3° world monsoons will become more variable either failing entirely or causing devastating flooding.
Hurricanes will devastate places as far removed as Texas, the Caribbean and Shanghai.
A 3° rise will see more extreme cyclones tracking across the Atlantic and striking the UK, Spain, France and Germany. Holland will become very vulnerable. By 2070 northern Europe will have 20% more rainfall and at the same time the Mediterranean will be slowly turning to a desert.
East Africa will become more humid encouraging a greater incidence of malaria and dengue fever.
Some northern regions will benefit from longer growing seasons (Norway, Finland) but will not compensate for loss of production elsewhere.
Many plant species will become extinct as they will be unable to adapt to such a sudden change in climate. More than half Europe’s plant species will be on the “red list”
The International Panel on Climate Change in its 2007 report concluded that all major planetary granaries will require adaptive measures at 2.5° temperature rise regardless of precipitation rates. US southern states worst affected, Canada may benefit. The IPCC reckons that a 2.5° emperature rise will see food prices soar.
Population transfers will be bigger than anything ever seen in the history of mankind. This will inevitably lead to conflict and international wars.
- Worse still, a “vicious circle” will develop under the three degree scenario:-
Amazon rain forests dry out
Wild fires develop
Fires release more CO2
Global warming intensifies as a result
Vegetation and soil begins to release CO2 rather than to absorb it.
Could push the 3° scenario to a 4° to 5.5° situation. (International Panel on Climate Change worst case scenario).
In the Indonesian peat fires of ’97/’98 2 billion EXTRA tons of CO2 were released.
- Galciers, water, ice caps
The Greenland ice sheet would be melting fast
Antarctic melt as well, might lead to “Atlantic Circulation” which would temporarily cool western Europe but lead to wild storms.
The permafrost in Siberia would melt, lakes disappear and there would be a massive release of methane which could result in a 700% increase in carbon release. Even if just 1% of the permafrost disappears in it will be equivalent to doubling our global emissions.
Displaced people – With sea levels rising by 50 cms at least 1.5 million people will be displaced in Egypt alone.
- Bangladesh loses over 30% of its land area displacing tens of millions.
- New Jersey would see 170 sq km flooded
Mumbai, Shanghai, Boston, New York, London and venice would be inundated to name but a few.
There is uncertainty as regards the stability of the Antarctic ice sheet. If there were to be an invasion of sea water, rapid melting would result leading to a 5 meter rise in sea levels.
3 Farming -There would be international decline in agricultural production due to reduced river flows and desertification.
Australia will support almost no agriculture
Much of the Indian sub-continent will be arid
Hotspots for drought will include SW North America, Central America, Mediterranean, South Africa, Australia
In the Mediterranean countries 70% of summer rains would fail, heatwaves would last on average 65 days longer than presently, wildfires would occur as far north as the Alps.
In the UK summer temperatures could reach 45° and droughts would be common-place.
In Europe there would be 80% less snowfall leading to water shortages.
The water level in the Caspian Sea would drop by 10 metres.
Some extra production in Canada and Russia
At 4° temperature rise sea level changes would be irreversible. The planet becomes unrecognizable.
A 4° temperature rise would see a collapse of civilization, leading to conflicts worldwide.
The climate models become a little less certain at a predicted 4° temperature rise.
The planet as we know it becomes unrecognizable:-
- No ice sheets remain
- No rain forests left
- Rising sea levels have caused mass inundations far inland totally altering the geography of the planet
- Humans will herd into shrinking habitable areas
- Inland temperatures 10° or higher than now.
Expansion of deserts – Sahara, Western Sahel, Ethiopia, Kalahari, Patagonia, Australia and Gobi
New deserts in Sind, Indo-china, Korea, Japan and the west Pacific and Pacific Isles, Southern Europe, East Africa and Madagascar and parts of Chile.
Russia and Canada will benefit from longer growing seasons but will not be able to compensate for agricultural production losses elsewhere.
There is a risk of the release of methane hydrates from the ocean floor due to changes in deep ocean temperatures. This will further add to the release of green house gases and take climate change well beyond the “tipping point” of no return. The release of methane hydrates will cause sub-marine landslides and this in turn will cause tsunamis throughout the planet.
Habitable areas will shrink towards the poles.
There would be a total collapse of civilization requiring new forms of governance, quite probably not of a democratic nature.
There would inevitably be a massive reduction in the supportable population. Quite possibly billions will die.
We are in the realms of dystopia. The human species may survive a 6° temperature rise but it is by no means certain.
Sea levels could be 20 m higher than current
Deserts march across the country
Many cities are abandoned
The volatility of the climate will see hurricanes throughout the planet of unimaginable ferocity.
Knocking in Wedges
“Knocking in wedges” is a way of visualizing what we need to do to save the planet from excessive global warming – some climate change is inevitable and irreversible but, so far, at a level which civilization may cope with. Each “wedge” represents a reduction of 1 billion tons of CO2 by 2055 Seven “wedges” are required to achieve a “standstill in CO2 emissions.
Wedge 1 Increase fuel economies in the world’s vehicle fleet from 30 mpg to 60 mpg – or halve mileage from 10K to 5K per annum
Wedge 2 Better energy efficient buildings
Wedge 3 More efficient power generation
Wedge 4 Stop all power generation from coal. 700 1Gwatt nuclear power plants to displace all coal fired stations. Or carbon capture at 800 coal fired stations instead
Wedge 5 2 million 1Mwatt wind turbines (a fifty fold increase on current capacity)
Wedge 6 a 700 fold increase in photo-voltaic generation
Wedge 7 Reforestation
DO ALL OF THESE THINGS AND ACHIEVE A CLIMATE CHANGE STANDSTILL
IDEALLY WE NEED ANOTHER FOUR TO FIVE WEDGES TO BE ABSOLUTELY SAFE!