“Humans have never lived on a planet this hot, and we’re totally unprepared for what’s to come” Jeff Goodell
What might an accurate worst-case picture of the planet’s climate-addled future actually look like, then? The authors of a 2019 research study provide one particularly grim scenario that begins with world governments “politely ignoring” the advice of scientists and the will of the public to decarbonize the economy (finding alternative energy sources), resulting in a global temperature increase 5.4 F (3 C) by the year 2050.
At this point, the world’s ice sheets vanish; brutal droughts kill many of the trees in the Amazon rainforest (removing one of the world’s largest carbon offsets); and the planet plunges into a feedback loop of ever-hotter, ever-deadlier conditions.
“Thirty-five percent of the global land area, and 55 percent of the global population, are subject to more than 20 days a year of lethal heat conditions, beyond the threshold of human survivability,” the authors hypothesized.
Meanwhile, droughts, floods and wildfires regularly ravage the land. Nearly one-third of the world’s land surface turns to desert. Entire ecosystems collapse, beginning with the planet’s coral reefs, the rainforest and the Arctic ice sheets. The world’s tropics are hit hardest by these new climate extremes, destroying the region’s agriculture and turning more than 1 billion people into refugees.
New York Magazine describes in a 2017 article a prophesy, one we’re seeing now in real time. The author predicts the course we’re on– the overheating of the planet and the limits of the human body, the end of food as seasons, temperatures and soils change faster than plants can adapt, the “plagues” that result from unfamiliar viruses, bacterial life and fungi which outpace the human’s immune system and medical science to adapt to them, unbreathable air and perpetual war, permanent economic collapse, poisoned oceans with larger and larger dead (anoxic) zones. This is not good news.
. . . it’s the rate of change in CO2 concentrations that makes today’s situation so unprecedented. During the Permian Triassic extinction event, it took thousands of years for temperatures to rise as high as they did — according to some studies, as many as 150,000 years. During the Paleo-Eocene Thermal Maximum, considered an extremely rapid case of warming, temperatures took 10,000 to 20,000 years to reach their height.
Today’s warming has taken only 150 years.
That is the biggest difference between today’s climate change and past climatic highs. It’s also what makes the consequences of current climate change so difficult to predict, Castelltort said. The concern isn’t just “but the planet is warming.” The concern is that we don’t know how rapid is too rapid for life to adjust, he said. Based on past warming events, no experts could possibly say that the current rate of warming won’t have dramatic consequences, he said. “We just don’t know how dramatic,” he added.Live Science