There is a very real chance the planet will warm by an average of 3 degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) this century – and that would be disastrous.
In such a brutally hot world, scientists agree that killer heat waves, massive wildfires and devastating downpours will happen much more often and hit much harder than they do today. The ocean will also be warmer and more acidic, causing fish decline and probably the end of coral reefs. In fact, about a quarter of Earth’s species can disappear under such conditions or be directed in such a way. Our coastlines would be remodeled as a result of rising sea levels foot by foot, century after century, drowning sites such as Charleston, Market Street in South Carolina, downtown Providence, Rhode Island and the Space Center in Houston.
All of this, as climatologist Daniel Swain of the University of California at Los Angeles put it, would be wrong“Bad for humans. Bad for ecosystems. Bad for the stability of Earth systems that we humans depend on for everything.
Experts cannot say exactly how likely this future is, as it depends on what humanity does to mitigate the worsening climate crisis, especially over the next decade. But for world leaders gathered this weekend in Glasgow for the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), that future could well become inescapable unless they agree on more aggressive and immediate measures to limit greenhouse gas emissions.