You are using an outdated browser.
Please upgrade your browser
and improve your visit to our site.
Skip Navigation

The Difference A Degree Can Make

With all the bickering in Copenhagen lately over what climate targets the world should be aiming for—no more than a 2°C rise? 1.5°C?—the discussion's been largely mired in abstractions. But The Guardian has a short piece today sketching out some of the concrete forecasts for each degree of warming, noting some of the predicted effects on sea levels, droughts, extinction, and all the rest.

And yes, the usual caveats apply: Forecasting the precise effects of global warming is one of the most difficult tasks of climate science (see the IPCC's Working Group II report if you really want to delve into this). But that uncertainty cuts both ways, and there's a fair bit of evidence that the impacts and risks could be even more severe than, say, the IPCC expects. On that note, it's a little unnerving to hear that even with a 2°C rise, the effects are likely to be highly unpleasant, what with the disappearance of coral reefs, a significant plunge in agricultural yields, water supplies dwindling, the extinction of as many as one-third of the world's species… And this, note, is what's considered the "safe" limit, and a goal countries are struggling mightily to meet.

(Flickr photo credit: tsallam)