You Will Probably Live to See ‘Dangerous’ Levels of Climate Change


Written by Brian Merchant, Treehugger

As far as Americans are concerned, climate change is a perpetually distant and ambiguous threat. Some glaciers thousands of miles away might melt, some poor people might suffer through droughts in Africa, some polar bears might drown. Et cetera. This ‘distance effect’ is, partly, what drives global warming to the bottom of our priority lists time and again. It’s an amorphous problem, ever-looming. That’s what it seems like, anyway.

Yet two recent studies published in Nature reiterate a warning scientists have been issuing for years: if greenhouse gas emission trajectories remain as rapidly ascendent, we’ll likely see “dangerous levels” of climate change by midcentury. That means a good many of us reading these very words will be alive and well by the time climate change begins to reach what are commonly referred to as “catastrophic” levels.

Reuters parses the report: (emphasis mine)

Global temperature rise could exceed “safe” levels of two degrees Celsius in some parts of the world in many of our lifetimes if greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase, two research papers published in the journal Nature warned.

“Certain levels of climate change are very likely within the lifetimes of many people living now … unless emissions of greenhouse gases are substantially reduced in the coming decades,” said a study on Sunday by academics at the English universities of Reading and Oxford, the UK’s Met Office Hadley Center and the Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. “Large parts of Eurasia, North Africa and Canada could potentially experience individual five-year average temperatures that exceed the 2 degree Celsius threshold by 2030 — a timescale that is not so distant,”

That’s right–we could see a 2 degree Celsius rise in less than 20 years in some parts of the world. Like Canada. And Canada’s not exactly a far-off locale, even to the most avid American exceptionalists.

Hopefully, studies like this will continue to underscore the urgency by which we must act to address our still-ballooning carbon emissions. And hopefully, responsible news outlets will continue to publicize them.

Mat noted in a post about these same studies that greenhouse gas emissions must peak by 2020 if we hope to avoid the worst climate change impacts. That’s not much time. And given the current political aversion to climate change mitigation in the US–the world’s largest historic carbon polluter–forging a meaningful international agreement aimed at reducing emissions between now and then will require something of a diplomatic miracle.

This post was originally published by Treehugger.


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Scientists Predict Extreme Heat Will Be The Norm In 20 Years


Photo of Texas wildfires from DVIDSHUB via flickr


W. C
W. C1 years ago

Thank you for the warning.

William C
William C1 years ago

Thank you.

Knut Franckenstein
Knut F7 years ago

We really need to banish greed from our planet because greed is the evil force that makes people want to have more and more instead of learning to BEcome a person understanding that animals and trees all have equal rights!

jan macek
jan macek7 years ago

New Mexico was alive with forest fires this year plus record drought. Not good news for the coming year. Since we have lived here, (28 years) we have seen record heat. In the 80's, it would cool off at night in the mts. during the summer where you needed a blanket but gradually, it doesn't cool off at night anymore. Something is wacky.

Tim Cheung
Tim C7 years ago


Grace Adams
Grace Adams7 years ago

Bad scene--A lot of ice and snow messing up sidewsalks last winter. Hurrican Irene knocking out power lines for almost a week in parts of Connecticut this past August. It will get worse, even after we finally switch to sustainable energy, it will still take time to turn the climate back on course.

june t.
reft h7 years ago

the future of the winter Olympics is at stake, among other things. Vancouver had to bring snow in during 2010. Russia is already taking it into account for 2014. Winters are shorter. I've noticed the bears come out earlier in the spring. We are already experiencing climate change.

Howard C.
.7 years ago

I don't live in the US, I live in the UK where we have had our fair share of climate problems - in my area we are still in a state of drought. Having said that I am not sure that first world countries such as the UK and the US can do that much about this issue while third world countries such as India and China are pumping out greenhouse gasses at an increasing rate. My worry is that the most we will do is to hand even more of our jobs over to these countries - yes this is an issue but let's get real, there is only so much the West can do!

Andrew Carvin
Andrew Carvin7 years ago

I'd say we are already there.

We are already seeing dangerous climate change.

It case no one has noticed, over half of Texas is still on fire, and natural disasters are beginning to happen so often they are becoming the new normal.

Andrew Carvin
Andrew Carvin7 years ago

Global warming is real, and humans are causing it with environmental destruction, and pollution. This is a FACT.

“But Andrew, volcanoes put out more pollution than human made pollution sources. Derp Derp Herp Derp.”

All of our lives are at stake, and we cannot continue to lend credence to such dumb statements by repeating them.

Volcanoes, and other sources of “natural pollution,” are not pollution. They are a part of nature’s regular cycle that has been going on for millions of years that has already been accounted for, and adjustments made to accommodate it. That is why volcanoes can erupt without killing everything on the planet.

Human environmental destruction, and pollution is not accounted for, or accommodated by nature. Not only because it has not happened over millions of years, but because of the scope and volume of it.

Pollution is not comparative.

It is additive.

2 0 = 2 (Natural Cycle)

2 2 = 4 (Natural Cycle Human Impact)

Our planet is dying, and we will die too if we don’t do something about it.