100 years from now
Rising seas swallow Miami
Scientists say the scenario has a wide range of variability depending on actions taken now. Temperatures will rise anywhere from 2° to 5°C, seas will be from 1 meter to 3.5 meters higher. The changes will be either accelerating, (some speculate that sea levels could rise a foot a decade) or proceeding more slowly. The Middle East, Australia, and the central and western US will dry out even more. Europe may be colder, as the Gulf Stream weakens. Miami, Shanghai, Osaka, Alexandria, the Hague, and the entire country of Bangladesh will flood. more
Projected affects of climate change with 2°C warming
Adapted from Liu, W., Sun, F., Lim, W. H., Zhang, J., Wang, H., Shiogama, H., and Zhang, Y. (2018). "Global drought and severe drought-affected populations in 1.5 and 2 °C warmer worlds."
Severe Heat - approaching the limit of human survival
Measures based on Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projections
100 Years from Now
Even if the goal of 2°C temperature rise set by the Paris agreement in 2015 is reached, the effects of the warming are profound. Significant heat and drought shift the growing zones of crops, moving wheat and corn north to Canada and Russia, while coffee and grapes climb up the mountain slopes and southern crops such as chickpeas and cotton fill in behind. The Amazon river basin slowly dries, potentially turning rain forest into upland or savanna, which absorbs a fraction of the carbon dioxide. Such wrenching shifts in land and life cause hardship for all species, including people, forcing migration when a livelihood is no longer possible at home. Conflict arises easily.
During heat waves, temperatures in the Persian Gulf rise above 35°C wet bulb, the threshold of survivability. In the Indus and Ganges river valleys in northern India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, temperatures crest close to that limit, threatening 1.5 billion people who live there, most of them poor farmers. In cities, the heat island effect adds another couple of degrees to already high temperatures and holds the heat through the night, making traditional cooling strategies ineffective.
In the temperate zone, temperatures pushed by deep oscillations in the jet stream swing dramatically from polar lows in winter cold snaps to scorching highs in summer. Radical shifts of temperature fuel violent storms, eroding soil, flooding river valleys, and swamping lowlands. Arctic regions have the most radical change in temperature, which melts permafrost, releasing methane and yet more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
At the scale of centuries ecosystems adjust, but rich, stable habitats take a longer to develop. Species can evolve to live in new habitats but the rate of change is slow and unpredictable. New habitat types may emerge with new relationships between species, developing over many generations of tumult.
People also adapt, finding new farming techniques and developing technologies appropriate to the situation. Perhaps ideas adapt also in discussions that reach beyond survival tactics into thoughtful reflection on the past, present, and future.
Another future is still possible
If we change course now and embrace environmental efforts, we might avoid the worst, while discovering a new way to live on this Earth. For example, biologist E. O. Wilson and an alliance of conservation organizations propose that half of the land and half of the oceans be protected to allow bio-diverse eco-systems to regenerate and become productive again. Solar and wind energy sources are the fastest-growing segment of the energy market and cost less than oil and gas. Organic and regenerative agriculture is supplying a significant part of the food we eat. More intensive farming methods such as permaculture are developing and even being integrated into the city. Farming, as other industries, is now taking the step into robotics to do increasingly customized and detailed work. Recycling is expanding to include more materials, which are handled by smart sorting machines, while industry, particularly mining and logging, is increasingly held accountable for pollution. The oil industry may yet be forced to pay for damages wrought. Urban living is more desirable and architects are innovating new ways to live, work and enjoy life in cities.
These changes require a shift in thinking at many levels in all sectors of society.
Text: "The impacts of climate change at 1.5°C, 2°C and beyond." Climate Brief: Clear on Climate, 2019, from https://interactive.carbonbrief.org/impacts-climate-change-one-point-five-degrees-two-degrees/.
The Royal Society (2017). Climate Updates: What we have learned since IPCC 5th Assessment. Retrieved 20 September 2018 from https://royalsociety.org/~/media/policy/Publications/2017/27-11-2017-Climate-change-updates-report.pdf
Image: Composite of Adobe Stock images and photos by author
Map: Liu, W., Sun, F., Lim, W. H., Zhang, J., Wang, H., Shiogama, H., and Zhang, Y. (2018). "Global drought and severe drought-affected populations in 1.5 and 2 °C warmer worlds." Earth Systems Dynamics 9: 267-283. https://www.earth-syst-dynam.net/9/267/2018/
Im, E.-S., J. S. Pal and E. A. B. Eltahir (2017). "Deadly heat waves projected in the densely populated regions of South Asia." Science Advances 3(8). https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/3/8/e1603322.full
CO2 and Temperature: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2014). Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, p. 74. https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/2018/02/SYR_AR5_FINAL_full.pdf
Temperature and Sea Level: IPCC (2014) and Horton, B. P., S. Rahmstorf, S. E. Engelhart and A. C. Kemp (2014). "Expert assessment of sea-level rise by AD 2100 and AD 2300." Quaternary Science Reviews 84: 1-6. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0277379113004381
Population: United Nations DESA/ Population Division. (2017). "World Population Prospects 2017." Retrieved 20 September 2018, 2018, from https://population.un.org/wpp/Graphs/Probabilistic/POP/TOT/.