With GHG emissions “zooming up”, it’s not too soon to ask what a 4°C world would look like.
No 2512 Posted by fw, August 28, 2019
“A decade ago several prominent climate scientists discussed the prospects of a 4°C Earth. Their concern was qualified “’ if greenhouse gases do not slow down, then expect a 4C Earth by 2055.’ Of course, that would be catastrophic, and one can only assume those scientists must have recognized real risks. Otherwise, why address the issue of 4°C by 2055 in the first instance? Not only that but the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, AR4 (2007) addressed the 4°C issue and a 2009 International Climate Conference at Oxford, ‘4 Degrees and Beyond’ discussed the consequences at length; e.g., deserts in southern Europe, sea levels up 2 metres by 2100, unleashing a ‘carbon time bomb’ in the Arctic, half of the world uninhabitable, etc. … Because prominent scientists addressed the issue of a 4°C planet and because climate scientists, in general, are constantly apologizing for being too conservative, too timid in their forecasts as actual climate change buries their predictions with a dagger to the heart, it is a worthwhile exercise to look at a 4°C world. It could happen within current lifetimes just like the scientists speculated 10 years ago. But, of course, nobody knows for sure. After all, it helps to brace oneself ahead of time, just in case.” —Robert Hunziker, CounterPunch
Robert Hunziker is a freelance writer and environmental journalist whose articles have been translated into foreign languages and appeared in over 50 journals, magazines, and sites worldwide.
Hunziker has taken a good look at a 4°C world. Based on how low IPCC scientists’ predictions have been over the years, plus the dramatic increase in extreme weather events worldwide this year and last, perhaps 4°C by 2055 is not so easily dismissed as too remote in time to even think about. Beware, counsels Hunziker, for along the pathway to a 4C world, “infernal regions of the planet will consume vast swaths of ecosystems and life forms like a monster arising from the darkest of caves.”
Below is my slightly abridged repost of Robert Hunziker’s article along with my added subheading, text highlighting, added images, and bulletted reformatting. In addition, I have taken the liberty to edit portions of his piece by rearranging the order of some paragraphs to improve the logical flow of ideas. Moreover, Hunziker has an unfortunate habit of quoting or referring to sources without providing an accompanying bibliographic citation – I have pointed these out in the body of his text.
To read the piece on CounterPunch’s website, click on the following linked title.
“… if greenhouse gases do not slow down, then expect a 4°C Earth by 2055,” scientists said, 10 years ago
A decade ago several prominent climate scientists discussed the prospects of a 4°C Earth. Their concern was qualified “… if greenhouse gases do not slow down, then expect a 4C Earth by 2055.” Of course, that would be catastrophic, and one can only assume those scientists must have recognized real risks. Otherwise, why address the issue of 4°C by 2055 in the first instance?
A 2009 climate conference identified some of those “catastrophic” consequences
Not only that but the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, AR4 (2007) addressed the 4°C issue and a 2009 International Climate Conference at Oxford, “4 Degrees and Beyond” discussed the consequences at length; e.g., deserts in southern Europe, sea levels up 2 metres by 2100, unleashing a “carbon time bomb” in the Arctic, half of the world uninhabitable, etc.
Not only have emissions not slowed down, they’re up 60% since 2010
Well, well, well…now that greenhouse gas emissions have sped up by 60% since 2010, not slowed down for a minute, the IPCC is talking about holding global average temps to 2°C, preferably 1.5°C, and they say the world has 12 years to tackle global warming (actually, nowadays it’s “global heating” because of massive heat intensity in certain regions of the planet) or all bets are off.
In 2010 the UK’s Met Office warned of 4°C warming by 2055 if emissions did not slow down
In 2010 the prestigious Met Office Hadley Centre/UK said average temperatures would likely be 4°C above pre-industrial by 2055, “if greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) did not slow down.” Well, guess what’s happened to GHGs? Asking the question is the answer.
With emissions “zooming up”, it helps to consider the consequences of a 4°C world by 2055
Fortunately, this article is a fictional tale of what 4°C would look like based upon predictions by prominent scientists 10 years ago. And, even though it may be considered heresy to suggest 4°C within current lifetimes, who knows, maybe those same scientists no longer believe 4°C could happen by 2055, but with GHGs zooming up, it would appear kinda inconsistent not to believe it any longer.
So, what would a 4°C world look like?
Because prominent scientists addressed the issue of a 4°C planet and because climate scientists, in general, are constantly apologizing for being too conservative, too timid in their forecasts as actual climate change buries their predictions with a dagger to the heart, it is a worthwhile exercise to look at a 4°C world. It could happen within current lifetimes just like the scientists speculated 10 years ago. But, of course, nobody knows for sure. After all, it helps to brace oneself ahead of time, just in case.
If 4°C did happen, hellish regions of the planet would be uninhabitable
In all, based upon how conservatively low scientists’ predictions have been for so long, maybe 4°C is realistic by 2055. But, beware if it happens, infernal regions of the planet will consume vast swaths of ecosystems and life forms like a monster arising from the darkest of caves.
4°C would bring with it a permafrost-thawing 16°C rise in Arctic temperatures
And, worse yet, it would bring in its wake a 16°C rise in Arctic temperatures where at least twice the amount of carbon already in the atmosphere is frozen in time, waiting to be released via permafrost thawing. And, +16C would do it fast. Accordingly, recent scientific field studies found thawing permafrost 70 years ahead of schedule in the High Arctic. Yes, 70 years ahead of schedule! That’s absolutely horrible news and but one more example of mind-blowing shock and awe with rapidity of climate change vis a vis scientists’ expectations.
What happens if 4°C hits by 2055?
The short answer has gotta be: Pandemonium reigns supreme!
“Less than a billion people will survive.”
According to the scientific forum 4 Degrees Hotter*: “Less than a billion people will survive.” Expect, on average, more than a million human global warming deaths every week. As such, mass graveyards stacked with bodies would become a new normal. [*Unfortunately, Hunziker fails to provide a citation for the whole of part of his reference to “scientific forum 4 Degrees Hotter” and my online searches failed to locate a source].
Prominent climate scientists were quoted in the 4 Degrees Hotter article:
“At 4C Earth’s … carrying capacity estimates are below 1 billion people.”
According to Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, one of Europe’s most eminent climate scientists, director of the Potsdam Institute: “At 4C Earth’s … carrying capacity estimates are below 1 billion people.”* [*Again, no citation by Hunziker. The closest I could come to his “1 billion” quote is a 2009 article in the New York Times: “In a very cynical way, it’s a triumph for science because at last we have stabilized something –- namely the estimates for the carrying capacity of the planet, namely below 1 billion people,” said Dr. Schellnhuber.]
By 2050 you might “have half a billion people surviving…”
Echoing that opinion, professor Kevin Anderson of the prestigious Tyndall Centre for Climate Change stated: Only about 10% of the planet’s population would survive at 4C.* [*Again, no citation. I did find this uncited quote attributed to Anderson in a 2009 article published in The Scotsman: “For humanity it’s a matter of life or death. We will not make all human beings extinct as a few people with the right sort of resources may put themselves in the right parts of the world and survive. But I think it’s extremely unlikely that we wouldn’t have mass death at 4C. If you have got a population of nine billion by 2050 and you hit 4C, 5C or 6C, you might have half a billion people surviving…”]
A global average of 4°C means land temperatures would be 5.5C-6C hotter
A global average of 4°C means land temperatures would be 5.5C-6C hotter, especially inland from coasts. The tropics would be too hot for people to live and most of the temperate regions would be desertified.
Half the planet would be uninhabitable; populations would be driven towards the poles
As a result, half of the planet would be uninhabitable. Populations would be driven towards the poles. Over 136 port cities each with populations of one-half to one million would require sea walls or translocation of nearly one-half billion people.
New deserts would spread to Italy, Spain, Greece, and Turkey
In Europe, new deserts would spread to Italy, Spain, Greece, and Turkey as the Sahara figuratively leaps across the Straits of Gibraltar. In Switzerland, summer would be as hot as Baghdad today. Europe’s population would be forced into a “Great Trek North” in order to survive.
The 2003 European heat wave killed 35,000
At the time, and according to the New Scientist, in 2003:
Even as recently as this century, “the European heat wave of 2003 killed 35,000”, but it was only a sampler of what too much heat does to the human body.
“The EPI [Earth Policy Institute] says it is confident that the August heat wave has broken all records for heat-related deaths and says the world must cut the carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to global warming.”
Cutting CO2 emissions has been a total bust
But, today, that’s a bad joke with CO2 in 2003 at 378 ppm. Today it’s 410. Therefore, “must cut the carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to global warming” has been a total bust!
Temperature bands will move towards the poles leading to runaway global warming
Temperature bands, called isotherms, will shift towards the poles faster than ecosystems can keep up. Thus, most ecosystems will collapse with breakdown of organic material, leading to ever-greater emissions of carbon self-perpetuating hands-free on autopilot, defined as runaway global warming.
In a 4°C world, temperatures would vary considerably on a worldwide basis. The Amazon, the Sahara-Sahei-Arabia region, India, and northern Australia would have higher temperatures than the average at any other place on Earth.
Die off of bats and fish, cooking of fruit on trees, in Australia’s 2018 heat wave
Already, Australia gave a recent preview of a hot earth late in the year 2018, in real time, when record-breaking temperatures hit hard. More than 20,000 bats dropped dead in over two days as temps in northern Australia hit 42°C (107°F). Hundreds of thousands of bony herring, golden and silver perch and Murray cod died in Darling River because of extreme climate. Fruit on trees cooked from the inside out.
Just think, the extreme heat wave in Australia happened with Earth’s average global temperature at 1°C
That happened in today’s world while average global temperatures have only reached approximately 1C above post-industrial. What if 4°C becomes reality or anything above 1C, like 2°C or 3°C? Then, what of northern Australia and other overly sensitive heat regions of the planet?
And this July was the hottest since 1880
Meanwhile global average temperatures for July 2019 were the hottest ever since 1880. And, CO2 in the atmosphere is at its highest reading in 400,000 years, a period of time when atmospheric CO2 ran 180 ppm (low) to 280 ppm (high).
CO2 levels are currently at 415 ppm, taking only 200 years to crack a 400,000-year record high of 280 ppm
As of today, CO2 at 415 ppm has powered thru the 280-ppm ceiling of the past 400,000 years like a hot knife thru butter, and even more remarkable yet, it only took a couple hundred years to break a 400,000-year record. Hands down, that’s an all-time geologic speed record.
We have shattered all records of the past 400,000 years
Thus, the human experience has turned into a vast experiment filled with unknowns because there are no comparisons throughout human history. Earthlings have shattered all records of the past 400,000 years. What happens next is a gamble.
So, why aren’t scientists raising the alarm?
All in all, it’s somewhat puzzling that scientists are not beating the drums about the threat of a 4°C world hitting earlier than expected. Maybe they are… but privately.
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