The Arctic will burn
When it comes to climate change, there are many things of which we can be certain. Though until recently the popular emphasis – both in mainstream media and in politics – stressed what we don’t know, we now know enough to be very, very certain of a number of things.
Climate change is real, and it is happening right now: temperatures are rising, glaciers shrinking, and this year summer Arctic sea ice reached a new low. The examples are endless.
The UN process isn’t working. The insipidness of the treaty signed at Durban was predictable. And as evidenced by Canada’s official departure from the Kyoto treaty, signatories cannot be counted on to keep their word anyway. Even faithful adherence would amount to little: the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) reports that by 2020, even with perfect implementation of current pledges under the UNFCCC (UN Framework Convention on Climate Change), there will be a six gigatonne gap between what is required to limit global temperature rise to 2°C and actual emissions.
So, we can expect a 2°C rise in global temperatures – maybe even 4°C. But what – exactly – is going to happen? This seems to be the only question left worth asking.
Put another way: just how worried should we be? Predicting the future is never an exact science, and there will always be a certain degree of uncertainty. Some places may change little, such as desert interiors. Others will become unrecognizable – or vanish entirely, such as Alpine glaciers and small islands in the Pacific.
One region we may regard as a barometer for change is the Arctic, because it will warm more than regions at lower latitudes – the planet as a whole may warm up by 4°C, but the Poles could warm up by 12°C. The changes will obviously be more extreme.
What will this look like? (via New Internationalist)