Sea-level rise, intensifying storms and droughts - all expected within the coming decades.
It is no great secret that the world is undergoing some significant changes thanks to man’s influence on the global climate. According to a report from the New York Times, however, one of the latest peer-reviewed studies surrounding the science of climate change paints a grim picture. Researchers believe sea-level rise and intense storms could begin affecting communities within decades, rather than centuries.
According to James E. Hansen, a retired NASA climate scientist and leader of the recent study, “We’re in danger of handing young people a situation that’s out of their control.” World leaders previously agreed that to ward off the most intense effects of climate change, global warming would need to be limited to just 2 degrees Celsius. Scientists fear that we may miss this mark by a long shot.
Surpassing the 2-degree mark could induce super-powerful storms along the world’s coasts, which would lead to erosion and widespread property damage. As polar ice caps continue to melt at an increasing rate, the volume of the oceans increase and only exacerbate the problem.
A draft version of the study was published last year, but skeptics pointed out that the work of the retired climate scientist was not yet peer-reviewed. The paper did not dance around the fact that burning fossil fuels continues to be the main contributor to climate change, and instead placed the blame firmly on human activity.
The authors fear that the constant flow of freshwater from melting glaciers into the ocean could induce a negative feedback loop that would lead to the rapid disintegration of ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica, some of the planet’s largest stores of freshwater.
While not everybody may be convinced by the paper’s assertions, climate scientists have nearly a unanimous understanding that the changes currently underway are not good for future generations of humans on earth. The paper described the last time the Earth warmed naturally to an average temperature only slightly higher than it is today, some 120,000 years ago. Massive chunks of polar ice washed away into the ocean, causing it to rise as much as 30 feet.
A press release from NASA describing the details of the study can be found here.