If we believe we’ve heard sufficient on how climate change will affect the world’s population in the next decade, century, millennium, we certainly haven’t heard this before.
A new research used climate models to understand what would happen to our planet if we were to burn all the fuels that we have at hand. Oil, coal, natural gas, every resource that is still buried deep in the ground and considered (at least for the time being) too costly to extract were taken into account.
Unsurprisingly, what the model spawned is not pleasant. Published in the Science Advances journal, the results predict that the global temperature would increase so much that it would drive the sea level to rise by over 160 feet and the entire Antarctic ice sheet to melt, along with the glacier mountains of the world.
These events could take place in as much as one thousand years. Sure, none of us would still be around to witness it. Yet, this is one sensitive perspective that the study is emphasizing: the moral aspect of human-caused climate change.
Ricarda Winkelmann, researcher with the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Germany, stated:
“To be blunt: if we burn it all, we melt it all”.
To put things in perspective, if the sea level were to rise by 200 feet, even over the course of one millennium, then the U.S. East Coast would be fully under water. Texas, Louisiana and Florida as well. Coastal Asia and the European plain would also be an underwater relic.
The cities that are most predisposed to becoming distant memories are New Orleans, Miami, Houston, New York, Washington, Tokyo, Rome, Paris, Venice, Berlin, Amsterdam, Buenos Aires or Beijing and Sydney.
Another account from one of the lead authors of the study, Ken Caldeira, researcher with the Carnegie Institution for Science in Stanford, California reads:
“This is humanity as a geologic force. We’re not a subtle influence on the climate system – we are really hitting it with a hammer”.
The risks of continuing to burn and extract fossil fuels have been under heated discussion for decades. And while increasing recognition is being given to the threats these practices are posing to our planet, the climate and humanity, too little decisive action is being taken.
Switching to a carbon-free economy and more sustainable growth is a tenuous and difficult path. Even more so when taking into consideration that the world’s governments are unwilling to reach consensus and take decisive decisions to meet sustainable scenarios.
Meanwhile, climate science is continuing to warn of the dangers humanity is faced with. In such an extreme scenario as the newly published paper presents, some may find consolation. The timeframe could reassure some that over the next century at least there is little need to take any crucial decisions.
Still, the glass is filling by the drop. Leaving such urgent issues unattended during the upcoming U.N. Climate Summit in Paris doesn’t delay the effects of climate change, it delays our response time.
Photo Credits: Wikimedia