Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Professor Mark Maslin of UCL’s sermon to the climate believers, promising fire, floods, famine and devastation unless they all make good on their commitments to cut their carbon footprints, and cut back on meat consumption.
Climate change: how bad could the future be if we do nothing?
May 6, 2021 10.59pm AEST
Professor of Earth System Science, UCL
Year 2100: the nightmare scenario
The 21st century draws to a close without action having been taken to prevent climate change. Global temperatures have risen by over 4°C. In many countries, summer temperatures persistently stay above 40°C. Heatwaves with temperatures as high as 50°C have become common in tropical countries.
Frequent and prolonged droughts torment vast swathes of the Earth’s land. The deserts of the world have expanded, displacing many millions of people. Around 3.5 billion live in areas where water demand exceeds what’s available.
Winter storms are more energetic and unleash more water, causing widespread wind damage and flooding each year.
A few questions Professor.
- If wildfires rage across all the parched continents, what exactly will they be burning? I mean sure, you could imagine one or two superfires scorching the land, but after a few years of this there would be nothing left to burn. Of course, it is possible the survivors of the first few superfires might cut some firebreaks or perform some forestry management before they lose everything.
- If we have more energetic winter storms, how can we also have extreme summer droughts? I know we’re talking about nature’s wrath, but will people in 2100 have forgotten how to build reservoirs?
- If some areas are flooded and others left dry, will people in 2100 have forgotten how to build large water pipes?
- Regarding the ocean warming you predict, why will less than a century achieve what the entire Holocene has so far failed to deliver? The ocean depths are still near freezing, even in the tropics, because there has not been enough time to warm the ocean since the end of the last ice age, over 12,000 years ago. How will a few degrees of additional global warming over a period of less than a century could cause a rapid and radical change to the overall temperature of the ocean?
- If the oceans do warm, how can they also become more acidic? Warm water expels dissolved CO2, so the dissolved CO2 content of seawater will fall the water warms significantly, even if atmospheric CO2 rises.
Of course, none of these predictions are testable in any meaningful sense. Most of us will have long since died of old age, before the year 2100.