Eight Degrees Of Warming

From the Washington Post:

Climate scientists agree the Earth will be hotter by the end of the century, but their simulations don’t agree on how much. Now a new study suggests the gloomier predictions may be closer to the mark.

“Warming is likely to be on the high side of the projections,” said John Fasullo of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., a co-author of the report, which was based on satellite measurements of the atmosphere.

That means the world could be in for a devastating increase of some eight degrees Fahrenheit by 2100, resulting in drastically higher seas, disappearing coastlines and more severe droughts, floods and other destructive weather.

Let me remind you what the CSIS/CNAS report “The Age of Consequences” (2007, PDF) had to say about such extreme warning.

In the case of severe climate change, corresponding to an average increase in global temperature of 2.6°C by 2040, massive nonlinear events in the global environment give rise to massive nonlinear societal events. In this scenario, addressed in Chapter IV, nations around the world will be overwhelmed by the scale of change and pernicious challenges, such as pandemic disease. The internal cohesion of nations will be under great stress, including in the United States, both as a result of a dramatic rise in migration and changes in agricultural patterns and water availability. The flooding of coastal communities around the world, especially in the Netherlands, the United States, South Asia, and China, has the potential to challenge regional and even national identities. Armed conflict between nations over resources, such as the Nile and its tributaries, is likely and nuclear war is possible. The social consequences range from increased religious fervor to outright chaos. In this scenario, climate change provokes a permanent shift in the relationship of humankind to nature.

• The catastrophic scenario, with average global temperatures increasing by 5.6°C by 2100, finds strong and surprising intersections between the two great security threats of the day— global climate change and international terrorism waged by Islamist extremists. This catastrophic scenario would pose almost inconceivable challenges as human society struggled to adapt.

……Global temperature increases of more than 3°C and sea level rises measured in meters (a potential future examined in scenario three) pose such a dramatically new global paradigm that it is virtually impossible to contemplate all the aspects of national and international life that would be inevitably affected. As one participant noted, “unchecked climate change equals the world depicted by Mad Max, only hotter, with no beaches, and perhaps with even more chaos.” While such a characterization may seem extreme, a careful and thorough examination of all the many potential consequences associated with global climate change is profoundly disquieting. The collapse and chaos associated with extreme climate change futures would destabilize virtually every aspect of modern life. The only comparable experience for many in the group was considering what the aftermath of a U.S.-Soviet nuclear exchange might have entailed during the height of the Cold War.

So what’s actually doable in an Obama second term to help head off this national security disaster? Not a lot and all of it too late, if any of it even happens at all. That we’re not all freaking out about this, and instead freaking out about the mislabelled “fiscal cliff” will be the reason future generations curse us, but the American people are apathetic about the issue, the Senate and President are squishy, and the Congress openly in denial. Moving forward…

 Bonus Read: Dean Baker | The Guardian – “We’ll be able to tell our children and grandchildren that they don’t have to pay interest on government bonds (they also won’t be receiving interest on government bonds, but let’s not complicate matters with logic) as they evacuate their homes ahead of flood waters.”

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Steve Hynd

Most recently I was Editor in Chief of The Agonist from Feb 2012 to Feb 2013. My blogging began at Newshoggers and I’ve had the immense pleasure of working with some great writers there and around the web ever since, including at Crooks & Liars. I'm a late 40′s, Scottish ex-pat, now married to a wonderful Texan, with Honours in Philosophy from Univ. of Stirling, UK 1986. I worked most of life in business insurance industry (fire, accident, liability) including 12 years as a broker/underwriter/correspondent at Lloyd’s of London. Being from the other side of the pond, my political interests tend to focus on how US foreign policy affects the rest of the planet. Other interests include early and dark-ages British history, literature and cognitive philosophy/science.

8 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Reminds me of a comment referenced here earlier to the effect that some areas could get not only too hot for agriculture but too hot to survive – places now 80° would be 170°.

    My take is we’re already past the point of no return unless we not only stop creating more greenhouse gases but start sequestering much of what’s already there. The problem is that there’s no short-term profit in global survival and those who control the purse strings figure that if 10% o the human race survives, they’ll be part of that 10%.

  • Texas summer temperatures are already on the edge of survivalability. A couple of degrees hotter puts many species and individuals among all species over the edge.

    Seas won’t gradually claim land, but instead will do so with violent storms that claim significant chunks giving back only portions of what are taken.

  • Science Stunner: Observations Support Predictions Of Extreme Warming And Worse Droughts This Century

    Climate Progress, By Joe Romm, November 9

    “Future warming likely to be on high side of climate projections,” concluded a new analysis by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). And that “higher temperature rise would produce greater impacts on society in terms of sea level rise, heat waves, droughts, and other threats.”

    Many in the media have been getting this story wrong — unintentionally lowballing the future warming we should expect this century if the NCAR analysis is correct. For instance, the Washington Post writes, “the world could be in for a devastating increase of about eight degrees Fahrenheit by 2100, resulting in drastically higher seas, disappearing coastlines and more severe droughts, floods and other destructive weather.”

    Not quite. The news release makes clear that amount of warming would likely occur well before 2100. Since this confusion is quite common in climate coverage, I’ll quote at length from NCAR to set the record straight:

    The most common benchmark for comparing model projections is equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS), or the amount of warming that eventually occurs in a model when carbon dioxide is doubled over preindustrial values. At current rates of global emission, that doubling will occur well before 2100.

    For more than 30 years, ECS in the leading models has averaged around 5 degrees Fahrenheit (3 degrees Celsius). This provides the best estimate of global temperature increase expected by the late 21st century compared to late 19th century values, assuming that society continues to emit significant amounts of carbon dioxide. However, the ECS within individual models is as low as 3 degrees F and as high as 8 degrees F.

    At current rates of global emissions, that doubling (to 550 ppm) will occur around mid-century, and we might approach a quadrupling by 2100!

  • NASA scientist warns of mass extinction from global warming

    Raw Story, By Eric W. Dolan, August 8

    James Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, warned Wednesday that human-made climate change could lead to the deaths of millions of species.

    “If we continue with business as usual this century, we will drive to extinction 20 to 50 percent of the species on the planet,” he told Current TV host Eliot Spitzer. “We are pushing the system an order of magnitude faster than any natural changes of climate in the past.”

  • Oh Crap! Maybe we’d better take this Global Warming thing seriously…

    Climate change: taking a toll on coffee?

    Los Angeles Times, By Eryn Brown, November 9

    If there’s one thing many of us count on — in good times and in bad, in rain or shine — it’s a bracing cup of coffee in the morning.

    But researchers demonstrated this week that the beloved cup of joe may be at dire risk from climate change.

    Writing in the journal PLoS One on Wednesday, research botanist Aaron Davis of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in London and colleagues reported that climate warming could drive wild varieties of Coffea arabica to extinction by 2080.

    Using a computer model, the group analyzed different warming scenarios, focusing on 20-year time spans around 2020, 2050 and 2080. In the best-case scenario for 2080, the African habitats they studied — in Ethiopia, the Sudan and Kenya — would experience a 65% reduction in suitable localities for planting. In the worst-case scenario, suitable localities declined nearly 100%.

    Our modeling shows a profoundly negative trend for the future distribution of indigenous Arabica coffee under the influence of accelerated global climate change,” the study authors wrote.

  • Climate Change Report Outlines Perils for U.S. Military

    The New York Times, By John M. Broder, November 9

    Washington — Climate change is accelerating, and it will place unparalleled strains on American military and intelligence agencies in coming years by causing ever more disruptive events around the globe, the nation’s top scientific research group said in a report issued Friday.

    The group, the National Research Council, says in a study commissioned by the C.I.A. and other intelligence agencies that clusters of apparently unrelated events exacerbated by a warming climate will create more frequent but unpredictable crises in water supplies, food markets, energy supply chains and public health systems.


    Mr. Steinbruner, the director of the Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland, said that humans are pouring carbon dioxide and other climate-altering gases into the atmosphere at a rate never before seen. “We know there will have to be major climatic adjustments — there’s no uncertainty about that — but we just don’t know the details,” he said. “We do know they will be big.”

    The study was released 10 days late: its authors had been scheduled to brief intelligence officials on their findings the day Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast, but the federal government was shut down because of the storm.

    Climate change can reasonably be expected to increase the frequency and intensity of a variety of potentially disruptive environmental events-slowly at first, but then more quickly. It is prudent to expect to be surprised by the way in which these events may cascade, or have far-reaching effects. Over the coming decade, some climate-related events will produce consequences that exceed the capacity of affected societies or global systems to manage; these may have global security implications. Although focused on events outside the United States, Climate and Social Stress: Implications for Security Analysis recommends a range of research and policy actions to create a whole-of-government approach to increasing understanding of complex and contingent connections between climate and security, and to inform choices about adapting to and reducing vulnerability to climate change.

  • Calif. snowpack outlook grim for water

    San Francisco Chronicle, By David Perlman, November 11

    The future of water for drinking and irrigation looks increasingly bleak throughout California and the world’s northern regions as the changing global climate shrinks mountain snowpacks and speeds early runoffs, Stanford researchers forecast.

    Decreases in winter snowpacks are likely to be most noticeable during the next 30 years and will continue to shrink through the century, according to an analysis of future climate trends by a team of specialists led by Noah Diffenbaugh at Stanford’s Department of Environmental Earth System Science.

    “One clear result is that western North America shows the most rapid and largest response to the continued emissions of greenhouse gases when it comes to early snowmelt and spring runoff,” Diffenbaugh said.

  • John Boehner’s discouraging view of climate science

    Washington Post Editorial, November 13

    Speaker John Boehner has made some encouraging statements since last week’s election, pointing toward productive policy-making. This was not one of them:

    “I don’t think there’s any doubt that we’ve had climate change over the last 100 years,” he told USA Today. “What has initiated it, though, has sparked a debate that’s gone on now for the last 10 years.”

    The Ohio Republican continued: “I don’t think we’re any closer to the answer than we were 10 years ago.”

    President Obama recently sounded some positive notes on climate change, perhaps the most neglected big issue of the 2012 campaign. His comments rekindled hopes of environmentalists that his second term will see more aggressive policymaking to combat global warming than did his first. Mr. Boehner’s words, which appear to mischaracterize the scientific debate on global warming, indicate that blinkered Republican opposition to doing much of anything about the problem may persist.

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