Skip to main content

One degree Celsius.

According to Mark Lynas, the effects of (up to) just one Celsius degree of warming can be dramatic.

Lynas's 2008 book Six Degrees: Our Future On A Hotter Planet surveys the peer-reviewed scientific research to describe how our planet would change with each degree of warming from 1 to 6 degree Celsius.  Lynas chose to examine this range because of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's 2001 Third Assessment Report, which predicted between 1.4 and 5.8 degrees C (2.6 to 10.4 degrees F) of global warming by the year 2100 (p. 21).  Chapter one shares a title with this diary, and details the effects of zero to one degree of global warming.  What does it describe?

Among other things... drought.

Not an intermittent drought as we are seeing this summer, but "perennial droughts" in the western United States.  Because the thin soil of the Great Plains is underlain with sand, when the plant life disappears due to drought or over-grazing, the sands can start blowing, as they did in the Dust Bowl years of the Great Depression.  Less than one degree of warming could "devastat[e] agriculture and driv[e] out human inhabitants on a scale far larger than the 1930s calamity"(pp. 29-30).

I'm not saying we're there.  There's not enough evidence to make such a claim.  By definition, a new normal in climate would require years if not decades of data to prove.  But listening to drought news on the radio... seeing newspaper pictures of governors holding ears of desiccated corn... reading diaries here at DailyKos about lifetime firsts in dryness and heat...  all I can think is, this sounds familiar.

The American discourse about anthropogenic (human-made) global warming is flawed.  Even, sometimes, the discourse here.  Putting the denialists to the side, the debate is cast as a choice between "the planet" and economic interests.  As if the planet were some abstraction.  As if it were some other planet, not the one we're living on.  As if the choice were polar bears vs. jobs.

The choice is, how much privation, suffering, and death we are going to inflict on ourselves in the coming decades.  

And it's not an elite issue.  As crops are lost and food prices rise as a result, it should surprise no one that the effects of global warming -- droughts, floods, heat waves, more powerful storms -- will hit the poor the hardest.  The global poor worst of all.  But again, you don't have to care about distant famine.  The price of staple foods are set to rise here in the U.S. this summer due to the current drought.

In order to stop the worst effects of runaway global warming predicted by scientists, we have to drastically reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.  We have to do it now.  Whether this or that government policy will get us there can be debated.  But don't imagine that doing nothing will protect you.  Or indeed any portion of the 99%.  Because it won't.

You don't have to give a damn about polar bears.  You don't have to believe that coral reefs have inherent value.  It doesn't matter if you care about the Costa Rican golden toad, and it's too late if you do; global warming has caused it to go extinct (p. 63).  You don't have to think of the grandchildren, your own or someone else's.  Pure self-interest is enough.

© cai


Lynas, Mark.  Six Degrees: Our Future On A Hotter Planet.  Washington, D.C.: The National Geographic Society by arrangement with HarperCollins Ltd, 2008.

Originally posted to cai on Sun Jul 22, 2012 at 01:16 PM PDT.

Also republished by Climate Hawks, DK GreenRoots, and Community Spotlight.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site