While smoking out climate change deniers can offer a little light relief, it’s important not to lose sight of what exactly is on the line here. For this, I am grateful to Joe Romm over at ThinkProgress for the following reminder:
The above ‘wheel’ graphic was developed by scientists at MIT to try to visualise complex options. The ‘No policy’ wheel’ is on the left, and that’s the wheel we are collectively now rolling. The wafer-thin blue segment at the very top represents the scale of likelihood of global warming not exceeding the catastrophic tipping point of +2C. Mid-range projections swing between 4-6C and there’s a one in four chance that the heating will be 7C, 8C or even more.
The UK’s Hadley Centre put it in a different but equally comprehensible graphic format. The red arrow, labelled “business-as-usual” is not the worst-case scenario by any means, but it exactly matches current (and for the foreseeable future) global approaches to ‘managing’ emissions, i.e. we’re simply not even going to try to save ourselves.
Laying this out on a global map of the 2090s, you get the scenario below. If you look carefully, you will note that the entire Arctic and sub-Arctic region heats up most spectacularly, by on average 12-14C. This will certainly destroy the Greenland ice pack, melt the entire permafrost zone from northern Canada to Siberia, releasing billions of tons of methane in the process. These processes will drastically alter global sea levels and unhinge global climate systems not in a millennium, but in the coming decades.
If I sometimes get a little hot under the collar about people who piss around with humanity’s collective future, perhaps it’s that I spend a fair amount of time studying the data, and come away more, not less, shocked and frightened every time. Yes, there are “climate crazies” out there. These are the folks who can look at data like this, shrug their shoulders, decide it’s all a bit of a fuss about nothing and go right back to whatever it is they were doing five minutes earlier. Ignorance may be bliss, but it isn’t safe and frankly, it isn’t sane either.