As far as Americans are concerned, climate change is a perpetually distant and ambiguous threat. Some glaciers thousands of miles away might melt, some poor people might suffer through droughts in Africa, some polar bears might drown. Et cetera. This 'distance effect' is, partly, what drives global warming to the bottom of our priority lists time and again. It's an amorphous problem, ever-looming. That's what it seems like, anyway.
Yet two recent studies published in Nature reiterate a warning scientists have been issuing for years: if greenhouse gas emission trajectories remain as rapidly ascendent, we'll likely see "dangerous levels" of climate change by midcentury. That means a good many of us reading these very words will be alive and well by the time climate change begins to reach what are commonly referred to as "catastrophic" levels.
Reuters parses the report: (emphasis mine)
Global temperature rise could exceed "safe" levels of two degrees Celsius in some parts of the world in many of our lifetimes if greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase, two research papers published in the journal Nature warned.That's right--we could see a 2 degree Celsius rise in less than 20 years in some parts of the world. Like Canada. And Canada's not exactly a far-off locale, even to the most avid American exceptionalists.
"Certain levels of climate change are very likely within the lifetimes of many people living now ... unless emissions of greenhouse gases are substantially reduced in the coming decades," said a study on Sunday by academics at the English universities of Reading and Oxford, the UK's Met Office Hadley Center and the Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. "Large parts of Eurasia, North Africa and Canada could potentially experience individual five-year average temperatures that exceed the 2 degree Celsius threshold by 2030 -- a timescale that is not so distant,"
Hopefully, studies like this will continue to underscore the urgency by which we must act to address our still-ballooning carbon emissions. And hopefully, responsible news outlets will continue to publicize them.
Mat noted in a post about these same studies that greenhouse gas emissions must peak by 2020 if we hope to avoid the worst climate change impacts. That's not much time. And given the current political aversion to climate change mitigation in the US--the world's largest historic carbon polluter--forging a meaningful international agreement aimed at reducing emissions between now and then will require something of a diplomatic miracle.