We have witnessed a series of extreme weather events including record-breaking temperatures, deadly wildfires, killer floods, and persistent drought in the last summer. Scientists take utmost care to link any weather events to climate change, but as per the study, human activities found to be highly responsible for the rise in global temperature and increasing severity, likelihood and span of such conditions.
According to Ken Caldeira as published by Nature, “Our study indicates that if emissions follow a commonly used business-as-usual scenario, there is a 93 percent chance that global warming will exceed 4 degrees Celsius (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of this century. Previous studies had put this likelihood at 62 percent.”
In 1992, the world’s leading scientists around 1700 in number inclusive of the majority of Nobel laureates in the sciences issued World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity (1992). In 2017, 15000 scientists and more from 184 countries co-signed on an updated version of the 1992 manifesto.
The latest version, “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice,” mentioned that maximum of the environmental challenges raised in the original letter like unsustainable growth of human population, depletion of sources of fresh water, plummeting biodiversity, overfishing not solved and are “getting far worse.”
According to the paper “Especially troubling is the current trajectory of potentially catastrophic climate change due to rising [greenhouse gases] from burning fossil fuels, deforestation, and agricultural production—particularly from farming ruminants for meat consumption.”
“Moreover,” the authors wrote, “We have unleashed a mass extinction event, the sixth in roughly 540 million years, wherein many current life forms could be annihilated or at least committed to extinction by the end of this century.”
Last November a 1,600-page quadrennial report Fourth National Climate Assessment released by President Trump’s own administration portrayed the same gloomy situation including wildfires, floods, frequent droughts, and extreme weather causing rise in sea level, decline in crop yields, increase in disease-carrying insects and reducing U.S. gross domestic product by a tenth by the end of the century.
Take a brief look at possible future events, and we can expect far worse unless we act fast. Time is running out.
1. Extinction of Species
According to a 2018 study by the James Cook University, University of East Anglia and World Wildlife Fund (WWF), about 70% of plant and amphibian species and 60% and above mammals, birds, and reptile species could extinct in one of the Earth’s most biodiverse places, Amazon.
The most alarming projection of the study was for the Miombo Woodlands in central and Southern Africa to lose 90% of amphibians and 80% or more of mammals, birds, reptiles, and plants with 4.5 degrees Celsius rise in global temperature.
2. Nutritional Deficiencies and Insecurity of Food
Climate change will cause countries with tropical and subtropical climate like South America, Africa, Europe, and India to lose huge arable land. Staple crops which provide two-thirds of the world’s caloric intake, like rice, wheat maize, soybeans are sensitive to temperatures, and as per the study, each degree-Celsius of warming will reduce average global yields of rice by 3.2%, wheat by 6%, maize by 7.4% and soybeans by 3.1%.
According to a recent paper, rising atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide by 2050 will make these crops less nutritious resulting in zinc deficiency in 175 million people causing a wide array of health impacts.
3. End of Coastal Cities and Island Nations
According to the Fifth Assessment report of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), sea levels could rise to 3 feet by 2100 unless emission of greenhouse gases get reduced and as per the published report of The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), New York City, San Francisco and parts of Miami, could flood daily by 2100. Kiribati expected to be one of the first, and at least eight islands have already disappeared into the Pacific Ocean due to rising sea levels since 2016.
4. Mass Migration and Social Conflict
The essay “The Uninhabitable Earth” by Deputy Editor David Wallace-Wells of New York Magazine said “social conflict could more than double this century” due to increased migration and diminished resources as a result of the flood.
In March 2018, the World Bank also concluded that crop failure, water scarcity, and rising sea levels could displace 143 million people by 2050.
5. Lethal Heat
A 2017 analysis showed that at present around 30% of the global population suffers extreme levels of heat and humidity for minimum 20 days a year and this will increase to 74% of the worldwide community with the current emission rate. Camilo Mora, the lead author of a study, the University of Hawaii at Manoa, told National Geographic “for heatwaves, our options are now between bad or terrible.” He added, “Many people around the world are already paying the ultimate price of heatwaves.”
6. Surging Wildfires
The horrible wildfire’s list is becoming long including The Camp Fire in California, The Mendocino Complex Fire in Northern California, The second-largest 2017’s Thomas Fire in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. However, as per California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment released in August by the governor’s office, the Golden State’s fires will get worse increasing burning of the volume of acres by 77% if emissions of GHG continue rising.
In a blog post, the Union of Concerned Scientists explained: “Higher spring and summer temperatures and earlier spring snowmelt typically cause soils to be drier for longer, increasing the likelihood of drought and a longer wildfire season, particularly in the western United States.”
“These hot, dry conditions also increase the likelihood that wildfires will be more intense and long-burning once they are started by lightning strikes or human error.”
7. Hurricanes: More Frequent, More Intense
We do not know the reason behind the major hurricanes like Harvey, Irma, Maria and Ophelia in 2017. We know that moist air over warm ocean water is fuel for a hurricane. Brandon Miller, a CNN Senior Meteorologist said: “Everything in the atmosphere now is impacted by the fact that it’s warmer than it’s ever been.”
“There’s more water vapor in the atmosphere. The ocean is warmer. And all of that really only pushes the impact in one direction, and that is worse: higher surge in storms, higher rainfall in storms,” he added.
NOAA concluded that “It is likely that greenhouse warming will cause hurricanes in the coming century to be more intense globally and have higher rainfall rates than present-day hurricanes.”
8. Melted Polar Ice and Permafrost
The rate of warming of the Arctic is twice as fast as the remaining planet and continued loss of ice and snow cover “will cause big changes to ocean currents, to circulation of the atmosphere, to fisheries and especially to the air temperature, which will warm up because there isn’t any ice cooling the surface anymore,” head of the Polar Ocean Physics Group at the University of Cambridge, Peter Wadhams told Public Radio International. “That will have an effect, for instance, on air currents over Greenland, which will increase the melt rate of the Greenland ice sheet.”
More serious is permafrost, or frozen Arctic soil is starting to melt causing the release of more potent greenhouse gas methane than carbon dioxide. Wadhams worried that the permafrost would melt in “one rapid go.” In that case “The amount of methane that comes out will be a huge pulse, and that would have a detectable climate change, maybe 0.6 of a degree. … So, it would be just a big jerk to the global climate.”
9. The Spread of Pathogens
According to The Atlantic, as permafrost is full of pathogens, its melting will release bacteria and viruses once frozen resulting in an outbreak of serious diseases.
“We now have dengue in southern parts of Texas,” McKee Professor of Microbial Pathogenesis and chair of the department of veterinary pathobiology at the University of Missouri, George C. Stewart, told Scientific American. “Malaria is seen at higher elevations and latitudes as temperatures climb. And the cholera agent, Vibrio cholerae, replicates better at higher temperatures,” he explained.
10. Dead Corals
Climate change could put whole marine life at risk including ecosystems of coral reef and the estimated 1 billion people who rely on healthy reefs for sustenance and income around the world. According to Science, “Researchers predict that with increasing levels of acidification, most coral reefs will be gradually dissolving away by the end of the century.”