Our 3.2 degrees world

The temperature on earth is rising. This is an indisputable fact.

Key Facts:

  • 62: The number of extreme heat events we’ll experience in every 1,000 days at a 3 degree increase in global temperature
  • 2 billion: The number of people that could be displaced as a result of a 1m rise in sea level
  • 2 degrees: the global temperature rise that could make coral reefs extinct

The temperature on earth is rising. This is an indisputable fact. Even climate change deniers acknowledge that the global temperature has increased by 1 degree celsius in the past century. Sceptics may not believe that the temperature increase is the result of human activity, but this doesn’t change the fact that the temperature really is rising. A difference in belief is irrelevant in the face of the consequences, which simply don’t care what people think and carry on regardless. We’re witnessing the impacts of climate change right now in real time, and in the future they’re predicted to get much worse.

Of course, the truth is that greenhouse gas emissions as a result of human activity are the reason for the continual upward trend in temperature. This has been common knowledge for quite some time. The latest and potentially most significant acknowledgement of this is the Paris Agreement, which sets the limit for global temperature rise at 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels, and aims to limit it to 1.5 degrees. To meet this target the world will need to drastically reduce its carbon emissions. A big problem is that we are already halfway to this target at 1 degree above pre-industrial levels, and current projections put the global temperature at 3.2 degrees by 2100, with some saying even this is conservative and 4.1 degrees is more likely.

There are a range of predictions about what will happen if the earth reaches temperature increases of this magnitude, but there is no way of knowing for certain exactly what will happen, as temperature increase of this rapidity hasn’t been experienced by humanity before. What we can do is look at the trends that are happening now as a result of higher temperatures and then extrapolate these for the future, and also look back to times when the earth was at similar temperatures.

Extreme weather events will be more frequent

A rise in sea level is one major indicator of the effects of climate change. It’s estimated that for each degree of temperature increase, the sea level will rise by 2.3m. Since 1993 the sea level has been rising at an accelerate rate of around 3mm per year. Projections by the IPCC show the rise in sea level as being between 18 cm and 59 cm by the year 2100. These projections have been said to be on the conservative side, with other projections putting the rise at between 0.5m and 1.4m by the same date. Upper estimates put the number of people who may be displaced by a rising sea level at 2 billion. Even if this is number is overestimated by a factor of ten, it’s still a potential 200 million people.

We’re already seeing an increase in the number of extreme weather events as a result of climate change, and with the temperature rising the intensity and frequency of these events with rise too. We currently experience around 4 to 5 extreme heat events in every 1,000 days, compared to 1 every 1,000 days in the pre-industrial era. With a 2 degree increase that number will reach 27 extreme heat events every 1,000 days, and with a 3 degree increase there will be 62 extreme heat events in every 1,000 days. This means that even if are able to stay within the 2 degree limit set by the Paris Agreement we can expect a five- or sixfold increase in the number of extreme heat days by 2050. This is just one example. We can expect an increase in the number of high rainfall days, and an increase in the number of hurricanes

Another effect of a rising global temperature is an increase in the rate of death of coral reefs. When the global temperature rises it heats the oceans and seas, which then kills off the heat-sensitive coral. The 1 degree increase in global temperature has already resulted in widescale coral bleaching and the death of large sections of coral reefs. At 2 degrees, coral reefs will be driven to the point of extinction, and at 3 degrees they will probably be past the point of no return.

There are numerous other effects of a rising temperature, including a decline in crop yields and food production, mass extinctions of animals, threats to the survival of the Amazon rainforest, and fundamental changes in the landscape of many countries.

The rise in global temperature is happening. Our only option now is to try and slow down its progress, and learn how to deal with the inevitable

Further Reading: Related Start Ups and Organizations

This series of articles has been prepared with the support of our partner Viessmann — they’re celebrating 100 years of their company this year (2017) and are actively involved in positively shaping the next 100 years.