Thursday, April 05, 2007

Global Warming's "Highway to Extinction"

A new report from the United Nations is slated for release on Good Friday, will outline the effects of global warming with every degree of temperature rise in what key researcher Andrew Weaving calls a "Highway to Extinction".

The missing link in many discussions of global warming is how temperature rises affect the ecosystem as a whole, and subsequently our own society. The upcoming report promises to make those connections in frightening detail. Details include:

A 1 degree Celsius increase would means up to 1.7 billion extra people (equivalent to the entire population of the United States and China) will not have enough water, some infectious diseases and allergenic pollens rise, and some amphibians go extinct. The world’s food supply, especially in northern areas, could increase. This is the likely world outcome for the year 2020.

A further 1 degree rise means as many as 2 billion people could be without water and about 20 percent to 30 percent of the world’s species will be near extinction. More people start dying because of malnutrition, disease, heat waves, floods and droughts. This is the likely world outcome for the year 2050.

The report's authors give these findings a 90% level of confidence.

For those who think this is too far into the future to do anything about, it's time to start looking beyond the end of your own nose. I will personally be 44 and 74 at these intervals. On behalf of the under forty crowd I can assure you these problems are far to close to the horizon to continue to ignore.

However, there's good news. The report also stresses that these projections are based on a status quo of failing to curb greenhouse gases. There are "many turnoffs" along the highway to extinction and ultimately its up to us to take control of the wheel and head for one of them. Oceanographer James McCarthy summed it up even better,

“The worst stuff is not going to happen because we can’t be that stupid,” said Harvard University oceanographer James McCarthy, who was a top author of the 2001 version of this report. “Not that I think the projections aren’t that good, but because we can’t be that stupid.”


Simmons said...

Even as someone who believes Global Warming is real, the IPCC report sounds a bit extreme.

"You only believe what you want to believe"

Maybe that's why it doesn't seem like it will be that powerful. But 1.7 BILLION? That's A LOT, in case you didn't know ;).

Odiyya said...

wow, that's astute. I'm overwhelmed.

Reasic said...

Nice post. I liked the quote by the scientist at the end, also. We can't be that stupid, can we? :P

Hey, would you be interested in exchanging blogroll links?

Ann said...

I added your note to my Green Lent blog.

kitimat said...


The IPCC report is being negotiated and written by delegates from dozens of countries. If anything, their consensus will be a conservative one.

These predictions may sound extreme, but they are based on hard science. We need to respect the opportunity that these warnings are providing us with. As individuals and as nations we need make the necessary lifestyle changes that will prevent the worst from happening.

E. R. Dunhill said...

Alas, I may have to disagree with Dr. McCarthy. Humans can indeed be that stupid.


Jay said...

From what I have been hearing is the IPCC report is actually too conservative.

Problems will occur much faster than the report states.

Janis Mara said...

This, the second of the IPCC reports, is a toned-down prediction, a compromise brokered in an around-the-clock debate among scientists and bureaucrats, according to the Associated Press story covering the news - which tends to support those of you who are saying the report is on the conservative side. AP story is at

Janis Mara