General Question

FreshlyBaked's avatar

What will result from climate change?

Asked by FreshlyBaked (626points) November 21st, 2012

The magazine New Scientist has some excellent articles in the current edition about climate change. (link You may need a free registration to read the articles.)

The articles are about the rapid depletion of Arctic ice, more incidences of extreme weather, the loss of food production, a rise in sea levels of 1 meter by 2100, the loss of the planet’s ability to absorb our CO2 output, the continued rise of human emissions of CO2 only exacerbating the problem, and heat stress may even make some areas of the planet uninhabitable.

Judging by the science of climate change, what do you believe will be the outcome?

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26 Answers

marinelife's avatar

Exactly what they say it will be. It is a matter of scientific fact not belief.

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laureth's avatar

Basically what we’re doing is adding enough crap to our atmosphere (as if it were an open sewer) to destabilize the climate that we’ve come to expect as normal. Because we’re introducing chaos into the system, it is hard to know exactly what will happen in any given place. The IPCC has a regional guide, but that may be optimistic. On the other hand, I have an online friend who says things like this. I don’t know what will happen, but I suspect something in between. Since we’re not really doing much of anything to head off catastrophe (whether through lack of belief, a profit agenda, unwarranted optimism, or distrust of “ivory tower elitist scientists telling us what to do”), and because many climate models don’t consider the effect of secondary and runaway effects (like what happens if the methane melts, which is already happening), I suspect it will be worse than we imagine.

I understand there’s a natural human bias against extreme views, thinking “this can’t be possible,” but that’s just the bias inherent in our grey mush between the ears. Sometimes, things really are extreme, whether our mush can wrap itself around the idea or not. We’re also naturally biased toward thinking more about tomorrow or next quarter than 20 years from now, but that doesn’t mean that reality won’t bite us on the arse, again, whether we can conceive of such a thing or not.

Kropotkin's avatar

I think we’re probably doomed. Obviously it won’t be the end of the world or our species, but I think it’s going to be a miserable century for a lot of people and various other species, with the exception of insects.

The economic system pretty much necessitates compound growth and treats resources as if they were infinitely abundant. It’s not sustainable, but our political institutions are embedded in this economic paradigm and work in its interests. Not only is there no political will to change much of anything, but there’s little popular pressure to change anything either.

Most people generally support the status quo; they accept the norms, values and the assumptions of liberal democracy and capitalism, they take traditions, culture and our institutions for granted—almost as if they were timeless entities that are definitive of our nature.

Ideally we’d all be working toward a sustainable system that doesn’t just satisfy all our material needs, but also our psychological needs—which the present system doesn’t do well at all. Our nature is that of hunter-gatherers, but there’s very little in modern civilisation that reflects this and I think that our natural instincts and desires have been sublimated toward irrational and potentially destructive ends, such as rampant consumerism and defining ourselves by what we own rather than who we are.

It seems to me that we, or at least those in power who could do something, do not have the intellectual and theoretical tools to do anything about climate change because it would also necessitate a radical political and economic shift that simply doesn’t suit their interests.

So it is my pessimistic conclusion that our governments will blunder on slowly and impotently, caring more about how to get reelected. Most people will concern themselves more with their immediate material gain than the maintenance of civilisation. Climate change will have huge destabilising effects on society and will force changes whether anyone likes them or not. I’m also pessimistic about any geoengineering and carbon dioxide removal technology being developed and implemented fast enough and on a large enough scale to lessen or prevent the effects of climate change.

dabbler's avatar

Recent study of the models used for global warming analysis suggest that the worst case scenarios are also some of the most likely. Gulp.

By the year 2100, an increase in average temps by 8 F, rise in sea levels of 3 to 10 meters, massive ecosystem disruptions, crop failures (due to heat, drought, and storm), widespread starvation, political and industrial collapse.
The sea level rise and crop failures will cause one to two billion people to leave their homelands in search of dry land and food. Border wars are likely.

CWOTUS's avatar

It may not all be doom and gloom. Consider that one whole continent is currently more than 99% uninhabitable. What might the world be like if people could actually live more or less normal lives on Antarctica?

dabbler's avatar

“Normal” these days is highly interdependent on international trade.
While the rest of the world burns, an independent infrastructure in Antarctica will have to be built from scratch.

That is certainly one of the scenarios by which the human species survives.
Many of the worst case scenarios describe conditions that will not support human life on the planet. If the atmosphere turns too squirrelly then folks on Antarctica won’t be able to breath normally.

josie's avatar

Where I live, the last few years the summers and winters have been great. Less snow, more warm temperatures, everything I like. It’s about time the climate changed in this area. I was about to move.

dabbler's avatar

@josie I like the milder seasons, too. If we could lock it down right where it is now, it would be pretty ok with me.

However, even our current state has higher ocean temps than in previous centuries, which powers the mega-storms we’ve seen in the past few years.
Also, if the models are correct the changes are just starting, and could move quickly in the next couple decades.

As @laureth mentions, methane that has been frozen/sequestered in ‘perma’frost for thousands of years is now beginning to evaporate. There may be no way humans can change their behavior enough now to avoid a state change in global climate.

Linda_Owl's avatar

Given the government’s resistance to even acknowledge the reality of Climate Change, I tend to agree with @Kropotkin , I think that most of us are doomed. There may well be pockets of people who will survive thru collective farming, but I cannot envision that any of our governments will be able to do very much to help us survive – we may even end up with governments going the way of the dinosaurs. Our electrical grid is aging very rapidly, our plumbing infrastructure is crumbling, & all the US seems to want to do is to declare war – instead of up-grading our electrical grid or repairing our plumbing. If we continue to get hit by storms as severe as Hurricane Sandy, there may well be no government to come to our rescue. How animals survive is another open-ended question, as is the survival of the marine life in our oceans. A temperature rise of just a few degrees will cause our ecosystems to collapse (both on land & in our oceans).

ETpro's avatar

It’s not a runaway change yet, but it soon will be and I do not see the political will to stop it getting there. Too many Luddites still hold sway. The prognosis looks extremely bleak. I’ll probably die before the coming changes do me in, but I grieve for my children and grandchildren. I’m coming to truly hate stupidity, particularly the self-serving, willful stupidity that gravitates to political power and serves the corprotocracy in return for the bribes they gain for their service.

Crashsequence2012's avatar

Al Gore’s wallet will get fatter.

philosopher's avatar

Here in NYC we recently experienced the results of Climate Change. I have read about it on for years. The storms are occurring more frequently and becoming more intense. We never had Hurricanes in NYC when I was younger. I fear we may need to move in land.
Sandy devastated parts of SI. Large tree branches fell on my lower roof. I am shaken.
We have wealthy family that tells us it is all a natural cycle. I think that they live in their own pseudo world. Based on R Wing Politics.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

Huricane season is supposed to be longer, the storms more violent and larger, there will be less land and more ocean, but the ocean will be dead. And by that time, so will most of us.

Crashsequence2012's avatar


There’s no proof whatsoever that a hurricane making landfall in NYC for the first time that YOU can remember is the result of any man made influence.

This belief that humans must be at the center of everything should have died with the introduction of Copernicus’ planetary system.

ETpro's avatar

@Crashsequence2012 You are right that we can’t link any single storm to global warming, or much else other than current positions of the northern and southern jet stream, the Nova Scotia High, and the ocean currents and ice cover in Siberia. But larger, more frequent superstorms are a clear prediction of climate models in the face of global warming, and we can definitively say that what we are now seeing is entirely consistent with those models. What once was the 100 year storm is now the 10 year storm, and will soon be the 5 year storm.

We are adding 32 billion tonnes of CO2 to the atmosphere each year ], which is far more CO2 (a known greenhouse gas) than Earth’s natural removal mechanisms can take out of the atmosphere. The seas absorb some of that, and this is rapidly increasing the carbolic acid content of the oceans. Anthropomorphic CO2 generation has resulted in concentrations rising from 280 PPM for most of recent history to nearly 400 PPM today. That’s higher than it has ever been when modern life inhabited the Earth.

By what incredible twist of logic do you conclude that Al Gore’s few millions lets him bribe the world’s scientific community and virtually all its governments. It even lets him somehow melt glaciers worldwide and cause the atmospheric CO2 levels to rise exponentially. But the world fossil fuel industry with a $37 trillion per year business to protect is entirely incapable of putting out any propaganda to protect their obscenely large profits.

philosopher's avatar

I agree with you.
I have family that still deny humans contribute to Climate Change. I consider them deluded. They lack common sense. Climate Change is reality and should not involve Politics. The ignorance and narrow mindedness of some is laughable. I see No point in debating with them. It is like arguing with a brick wall. They seem to live in their own world.
I do not intend to be rude but I can not tolerant narrow minded people.
NYC never had Hurricanes till recently. I have read the Scientific Data and come to a conclusion.

LostInParadise's avatar

@Crashsequence2012 , I would compare the link between global warming and hurricanes to the link between smoking and health risks. It is difficult to say for certain that a person who smokes a pack a day got lung cancer or a heart attack due to the smoking. The best that we can do is say that the person was at greater risk. There are a small number of people who smoke a pack a day and live to 100. Statistically, as far as insurance companies are concerned, more smoking translates to more costs for them. The evidence is pretty solid. And so is the evidence for the link between global warming and extreme weather of all sorts, in addition to the long term steady rise in sea level and generally warmer temperatures.

philosopher's avatar

You are capable of reasoning and you have common sense. Unfortunately many well educated people lack your ability. They can read data, memorize well and past test. They can not comprehend well enough to extrapolate from the documentation. I find this very troubling.
Intelligent people must be able to reason and do more than memorize information. They need to use information to improve conditions.
Too many people view Climate Change as a Political issues. It is actually based on Science and most Politics comprehend little.

Crashsequence2012's avatar

If Al Gore didn’t touch on tender issues that the Left lives for he would be reviled for his wealth as one of the evil rich.

@Philosopher Congrats on the classification of Intelligent.

I see the pattern:

An individual chooses to relax and savor a cigarette. Another experiences the convenience of traveling across multiple states in a day.

Not everyone appreciates these things so they must be abolished for the illusion that is the “greater good.”

ETpro's avatar

Oh please. Now the top 1% is an endangered species. Let’s not try to debate by constantly switching the topic, but rest assured the 1% are in no danger of being stripped of their wealth. The fact is they have, over the last 30 years, greatly expanded their hold on the nation’s wealth. Back in that troubling fact-based Universe that I inhabit, here’s what has happened to the share of wealth held by the bottom 80% over time. Here’s how the top 1% have done. Now, in 2012, they are back to nearly the disparity they enjoyed just prior to the Great Depression, controlling 42.7% of the financial wealth.

Yes, yes, we must protect our poor, impoverished rich from the horrors of class warfare. Screw the 80% they are taking the spoils of war from. And let’s forget about global warming altogether, as you were losing that debate.

Crashsequence2012's avatar

Win? Lose? Meh.

The smoking issue was made admissible thanks to the comment made by @LostInParadise and the personal transportation issue was relevant for obvious reasons.

Linda_Owl's avatar

I am very surprised that there was not a greater loss of life from Hurricane Sandy. Now a lot of insurance companies are denying coverage for losses because they are attributing the losses to “Flooding Loss” instead of to “Hurricane Loss” ( & one of these insurance companies is ALLSTATE – the company that advertises ‘Good Hands of Allstate’ – but it looks like they are doing their best to cut their losses). I think the whole area that was impacted by Hurricane Sandy will have to make some very intense decisions about what to rebuild. Low lying communities are going to be very vulnerable to sea level rises & people may have to resort to moving further in-land, instead of rebuilding where their homes were destroyed – and businesses may face the same decisions.

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