Climate change will soon get “up close and personal” for millions worldwide. Ironically, the first places affected will be countries which are the least equipped to deal with it and the least responsible for causing it.
The disturbing prediction that we are staring down the barrel of an “entirely new climate“ comes from a new study published in the journal Nature. Researchers from the University of Hawaii say that within 30 or so years, if we don’t reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, we will face an unprecedented and irreversible climate change tipping point.
Our backs are well and truly against the wall, folks.
To put it bluntly, after the year 2047, the coldest year America will ever have will be warmer than the hottest year we ever had in the past. Or, to state it another way, for any average location on the planet, the mean annual climate will go beyond the most extreme temperatures it has so far experienced in the past 150 years — and will never slip back down.
“The results shocked us: regardless of the scenario, changes will be coming soon,” said Dr. Camilo Mora, University of Hawaii professor and lead author of the study. “Within my generation, whatever climate we were used to will be a thing of the past.”
The global mean average tipping point happens in 2047.
Researchers studied two scenarios. The first assumed worldwide “business as usual” regarding greenhouse gas emissions. The second, more optimistic scenario assumed we will find a way to stabilize emissions at current levels. The bad news is that even if we’re able to achieve stabilization, this climate shift will only be delayed by perhaps 20 additional years.
Rocketing Toward a Permanent Shift Beyond Historic Temperature Bounds
Analyzing temperatures recorded from 1860 to 2005, researchers used 39 independently developed climate models from 12 different countries and looked at temperature projections for the next 100 years. This combination of information enabled them to forecast the year when temperatures at any specific spot on earth will shift permanently to a point outside their historic bounds. They called this point the year of “climate departure.”
The world’s oceans already passed their tipping point in 2008, says the study.
Tropical locations, not the earth’s poles, will feel the effects of this shift first. Alarmingly, they’ll be hit 10 to 15 years earlier than the rest of us. This will happen, say researchers, because of “small but rapid changes” that tropical ecosystems and species aren’t used to. The tropics, which are home to the world’s areas of greatest biodiversity, don’t roll with the punches as well as other areas, unfortunately.
Of all places on Earth, Indonesia will face its point of no return first, in 2020. Yes, 2020. Some people have car loans that won’t be paid off by then. After the tropics, cities around the globe will reach climate departure tipping points roughly as follows:
Interested in seeing the data for where you live? The study’s creators have posted a clickable map here.
Ill-Prepared Developing Countries Will Be Hit First
By the year 2050, over a billion people in developing countries can expect to be significantly affected. According to the study’s findings, ”The fact that the earliest climate departures occur in low-income countries further highlights an obvious disparity between those who benefit economically from the processes leading to climate change and those who will have to pay for most of the environmental and social costs.”
The sheer number of those affected in these countries means we must begin to worry about the supply of food and water, effects on human physical and mental health, the spread of disease, heat stress, conflict for resources and economic instability.
“Our results suggest that countries first impacted by unprecedented climates are the ones with the least capacity to respond,” study co-author Ryan Longman said. “Ironically, these are the countries that are least responsible for climate change in the first place.” The authors of this study urge funding for social and conservation programs in developing countries to help them minimize these approaching climate change effects.
Assuming this climate departure happens as predicted, Dr. Mora’s team says it leaves all creatures with three options: migrate to more habitable places, adapt or die. That advice goes for people, too.
Act Now to Reduce Emissions or Forever Regret It
It sounds like extreme change is coming, regardless of what we do. Why should be bother doing anything? The answer is simple. We urgently need to do what we can — now — because it might mean the difference between survival or extinction for ecosystems and species.
“These results should not be reason to give up,” said Dr. Mora. ”Rather, they should encourage us to reduce emissions and slow the rate of climate change. This can buy time for species, ecosystems, and ourselves to adapt to the coming changes.”
Developing countries need the help of the United States and all other “developed” countries to stem this tide. Reducing our own emissions will go a long, long way. We can still slow this thing down enough to help species and ecosystems survive it. Will we heed these warnings and do something?
Above all, say the researchers, we must hurry.
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