Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Climate change: Six degrees

Over the weekend, "leaders" at the APEC summit in Singapore gave up on reaching a binding climate deal in Copenhagen. Meanwhile, scientists are warning that unless they act now, we're headed for six degrees:

Global temperatures are on a path to rise by an average of 6C by the end of the century as CO2 emissions increase and the Earth's natural ability to absorb the gas declines, according to a major new study.

Scientists said that CO2 emissions have risen by 29% in the past decade alone and called for urgent action by leaders at the UN climate talks in Copenhagen to agree drastic emissions cuts in order to avoid dangerous climate change.

An increase in global average temperature of two degrees from pre-industrial levels in considered "dangerous". Six degrees is apocalypse. Its at the upper end of IPCC estimates, and their summary table [PDF; p. 51] doesn't even extend that far. But five degrees means drought, flooding, a substantial burden on health services, "significant extinctions around the globe", and ecosystem changes due to a breakdown in the thermohaline circulation. It also means mass famine, with food production decreasing around the world.

Preventing that, and the resulting war and social disorder, should be the most pressing concern of our elected representatives. Instead, they're still trying to do nothing, so the businesses who pay them can make a few more years of environmentally subsidised "profit".