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Global Warming: Worst Case Scenario Best We Can Hope For

By Bob Gordon     Nov 18, 2009 in Environment
The Global Carbon Project announced earlier this week that a six degree Celsius temperature increase by the end of the century is virtually inevitable. This was the worst case scenario proposed by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007.
This prediction is particularly worrisome as the climate policy of the European Union, the UK and many other national and international organizations is predicated on a maximum increase of only two degrees Celsius.
The Global Carbon Project is led by Professor Corinne Le Quéré of the University of East Anglia and the British Antarctic Survey. The team is comprised of 31 researchers from seven countries. The study by Professor Le Quéré and her team was published in the journal Nature Geoscience
The Independent provided a stark summary of the study's findings: "Between 1990 and 2000 the average annual increase in carbon emissions was 1 per cent. But between 2000 and 2008 they increased by 3 per cent on average a year. Far from coming down, our emissions are accelerating." Overall, the study concluded that carbon dioxide emissions have increased by 41 percent since 1990.
At the same time the effectiveness of carbon sinks--that process atmospheric carbon--such as oceans and forests has been declining. In the case of the rain forest much of it is being cleared for agriculture. This reduces the area of carbon sink available, degrades the efficacy of the remainder, and, at the same time, contributes to carbon dioxide levels as the most common method to clear rain forest is burning. The study concludes that the amount of carbon dioxide emitted that remains in the atmosphere has increased from 40 percent in 1990 to 45 percent today.
The consequences of a six degree Celsius rise in temperature was outlined in the Independent on the basis of Mark Lynas research:
It would cause a mass extinction of almost all life and probably reduce humanity to a few struggling groups of embattled survivors clinging to life near the poles.
With the tropics too hot to grow crops, and the sub-tropics too dry, billions of people would find themselves in areas of the planet which are essentially uninhabitable. This would probably even include southern Europe, as the Sahara desert crosses the Mediterranean.
As the ice-caps melt, hundreds of millions will also be forced to move inland due to rapidly-rising seas. As world food supplies crash, the higher mid-latitude and sub-polar regions would become fiercely-contested refuges
Professor Le Quéré's conclusion is frightening, "The Copenhagen conference next month is in my opinion the last chance to stabilise climate at C above pre-industrial levels in a smooth and organised way,"
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