Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Underestimating Climate Change Impacts

In recent years we've become accustomed to severe weather hitting one part of the planet or another.   Drought here, flooding there.  Freezing cold fronts in one place, heat waves in another.  It was like every country had to take its turn.  But what it calamity happened everywhere, all at once?

The U.S. National Academy of Science suggests the whole world may be at risk from simultaneous droughts, famines and epidemics.

The series of papers published by the Proceedings for the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) shows that policymakers might be underestimating the social and economic consequences of climate change due to insufficient attention on how different climate risks are interconnected.

One paper whose lead author is Franziska Piontek of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research explores impacts related to "water, agriculture, ecosystems, and malaria at different levels of global warming." The study concludes that: "... uncertainty arising from the impact models is considerable, and larger than that from the climate models. In a low probability-high impact worst-case assessment, almost the whole inhabited world is at risk for multisectoral pressures."

The uncertainties in the model are large enough that they may "mask" the risk of a "worst case" scenario of "multisectoral hotspots," where impacts affecting "water, agriculture, ecosystems, and health" overlap in ways that could affect "all the world's inhabited areas."

In the worst-case analysis, "Almost the entire global population is exposed to multisectoral pressure" at global mean temperatures of around 4C higher, with "roughly 18% of the global population" projected to "experience severe pressure in all four sectors. The affected regions are in Europe, North America, and south-east Asia."


Troy Thomas said...

To put it bluntly, we are in the midst of an extinction event. Our own.
The least we can do as individuals is brace ourselves for oncoming impacts.
The most we can do is a complete revolution of civilization. However, we need to bring it to a complete halt, so it can be turned right around. Where civilization is headed now, is toward absolute catastrophe.

Dana said...

So much for the opposable thumb and consciousness.

The Mound of Sound said...

Troy, you're far from the first to question whether we've triggered an extinction event. We have repeatedly underestimated the threat but, far worse, we've made groundless assumptions of our resilience as societies and as a civilization.

Purple library guy said...

Well, we've already caused an extinction event before even getting to climate change. The number of species we've driven to extinction just from eating them and/or occupying their habitat is unfathomable.

e.a.f. said...

Well Mr. Mound of Sound that certainly was depressing. True, yet depressing and right before Christmas. of course one could consider it a christmas message. At what other time of year do we indulge in so much waste?

There are the climate change deniers and some even believe them. Well have a look at the history books and you will see that the earth's climate has changed several times in the course of history. with an ever increasing population it gets more difficult for everybody to survive.

Should certain countries be subjected to continual severe storms, drought, etc. the population will leave the area. if they don't they will die. Where will they go? Most likely places which aren't hving problems. this on its own will be a problem. Countries don't like to be invaded, even for humanitarian reasons. The time is so past for denying climate change. Feel free to argue what causes it, but when ocean temps increase or huge storms destroy whole areas and cities, huge ice shields slide into the ocean, huston we have a problem.

Over consumption needs to be addressed in the west. Destruction of the enviornment needs to be addressed. Not so much perhaps for saving it for savings sake, but rather, hey we may need to live there in the not so distant future.

The Mound of Sound said...

e.a.f. - it's not that the planet's climate hasn't changed in the past. It's that the climate has never changed anywhere near this rapidly. Past changes took place over tens of thousands of years. Now we're facing that same scale of change over a couple of centuries - a geological blink of an eye. That doesn't allow any species to evolve in time to adapt to this degree of change.