What will climate change do to our planet?Edit

March 11, 2007

Our planet's future - famous cities are submerged, a third of the world is desert, the rest struggling for food and fresh water. Richard Girling of The Sunday Times investigates the reality behind the science of climate change in the recent book by Mark Lynas called "Six Degrees". Lynas points to recent comments by the the UK Met Office's Hadley Centre for Climate Change, and the newly discovered "positive feedbacks" that would make nonsense of the generally accepted IPCC global-warming estimates. It would not be a gradual, linear increase with nature slowly succumbing to human attrition. Nature itself was about to turn nasty. Instead of absorbing and retaining greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, the Hadley figures suggested, Nature would suddenly spew them out again - billions of years' worth of carbon and methane, incontinently released in blazing surges that would drown or incinerate whole cities. Ice would melt in torrents, and the Amazon rainforest, could be dying as early as 2050. (more...)

Here's a summary of the degree-by-degree guide to transitions Lynas says we are likely to experience as the globe slowly heats up.

1c Increase

Ice-free sea absorbs more heat and accelerates global warming; fresh water lost from a third of the world's surface; low-lying coastlines flooded

2c Increase

Europeans dying of heatstroke; forests ravaged by fire; stressed plants beginning to emit carbon rather than absorbing it; a third of all species face extinction

3c Increase

Carbon release from vegetation and soils ?speeds global warming; death of the Amazon rainforest; super-hurricanes hit coastal cities; starvation in Africa

4c Increase

Runaway thaw of permafrost makes global warming unstoppable; much of Britain made uninhabitable by severe flooding; Mediterranean region abandoned

5c Increase

Methane from ocean floor accelerates global warming; ice gone from both poles; humans migrate in search of food and try vainly to live like animals off the land

6c Increase

Life on Earth ends with apocalyptic storms, flash floods, hydrogen sulphide gas and methane fireballs racing across the globe with the power of atomic bombs; only fungi survive

Chance of avoiding six degrees of global warming: zero if the rise passes five degrees, by which time all feedbacks will be running out of control

Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet, by Mark Lynas, is published by HarperCollins 2008

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.