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Global Warming: The Worst-Case Scenario

Although there are still many people who are skeptical about climate change, many respected scientists believe that we are already barreling toward the worst-case scenario. If you’ve felt like the last couple of summers have been particularly brutal, you might not be imagining things. The scientific consensus is that the changes are already underway, and that we’re just going to have to get used to these ever-increasing and widespread heat waves.

But the fact of the matter is that we haven’t seen anything yet. The little bit of warming that we’ve seen already is not far beyond the bounds of the normal climactic fluctuations, which is why so many people can still deny that it’s happening. But if the scientists are right, the changes are going to become undeniable within just a few years. And within the next century, global warming is going to become an earthshattering disaster, affecting virtually every aspect of life on Earth as we know it. And most of these changes will be tragic.

Dramatic temperature rise

For a long time, scientists were tentatively tossing around a figure of 6 degrees Celsius as a worst-case-scenario temperature rise over the next century. Although many models suggested that this rise was possible, few believed that it would actually happen—at least until now. As of 2010, the 6C rise seems all but unavoidable, and it could be even worse.

To give you an idea of how bad this 6C rise would be, toward the end of the last ice age, about 20 millennia ago, the earth temperature rose this much over 5,000 years—leading to a dramatic reshaping of the Earth’s surface, a widespread retreat of polar glaciers, and a 120-meter rise in sea level. If the scientists are right, we could be in for a change just as dramatic. Only this time it will occur over a century rather than 5,000 years. Are you ready for it?

Worst-case scenario effects

If this 6C rise comes to pass, here are some of the things that could happen:

• Newly formed deserts wipe out many of the world’s major agricultural areas.
• Hundreds of millions of people are displaced when low-lying coastal areas are submerged. Many of the world’s great cities and cultural regions are forever lost under the water.
• Many of the world’s island nations become completely lost to rising sea levels.
• Most of the world’s plant and animal species go extinct.
• The oceans lose oxygen and turn stagnant, leading to the loss of most forms of water life.
• The atmosphere is plagued by methane fireballs, hurricanes of unimaginable size and ferocity, and dust storms that engulf the earth.
• In the end, humanity will be reduced to a few last survivors eking out a meager living near the poles. After a few more centuries, humanity will go extinct.
• In a few million years, with humans long gone, the earth returns to a state of health, with new plants and animals evolving from the few rugged species that managed to survive the difficult times.