Even in a very best case scenario where 70% of CO2 emissions are cut, global warming will still cause drought, polar ice cap melting, and extreme weather.
The numbers are from the latest report from the United Nations-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Tap to understand more: What is the IPCC climate report?
The United Nations-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) collects scientific data from around the world, and produces a report every five years which representatives of all 195 member countries have to agree on.
For this reason, it’s considered the leading authority on climate change (although it’s been criticized in the past for being too conservative).[contextly_auto_sidebar id=”7qowgIRfBUooa1PPnEyMF4uxWcBQHdCd”]
In their most recent report, the IPCC outlays four different projections for the world’s climate will be like by 2100.
Here’s the best case scenario for global warming, if massive reductions in greenhouse gas emissions were completed over the course of the century:
Global temperatures increase by 3.6°F (2°C). For reference, the IPCC reports (pdf) that most of the world has already experienced at least 1.8 °F (1°C) in increase over the previous century:
Photo courtesy of the IPCC via Quartz.
Sea levels will rise 66 inches. Even at the lowest projection, this is a lot more rapid than reported in the 2007 IPCC report, as glaciers have melted at unprecedented levels. For reference, here’s what New York City would look like if the sea rose 132 inches:
Image courtesy of Climate Central.
The maps below show the best case scenario on the left (RPC2.6), while the right view shows what will happen if no action is taken to prevent climate change, according to the IPCC.
More extreme weather. Rain will cause up to 20% less rain in some dry regions, exacerbating droughts. Meanwhile, wet areas will see more powerful precipitation.
Oceans become more acidic. The pH levels of the ocean will increase by 0.1 due to absorbed CO2. While this seems small, the level has been steady 8.2 pH for millions of years- and even small changes can damage marine life.
Polar ice caps will continue to melt. Only a small part of the North Pole will stay frozen during summer:
Images courtesy of the IPCC via Quartz.
A 2016 paper published in the peer-reviewed journal for the National Academy of Sciences drew stunning conclusions about the rapid rise of sea water in the last century, drawing direct correlations to global warming.
How can the world achieve the best case scenario?
The RPC2.6 projection is basically the absolute minimum of climate effects that will happen. It requires several things to happen:
- Cumulative greenhouse emissions between 2010 and 2100 are reduced (pdf) by 70%.
- Emissions peak by 2020 and start declining to zero around 2080
- The global population peaks at 9 billion mid-century (current UN projections show a peak of 10 billion in 2083)
- Economic growth stays high
- Biofuels with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) are widely adopted over oil
As you can probably tell, world leaders have their work cut out for them if they’re interested in making this scenario happen. More likely, some middle-of-the-road solution will be adopted – with more devastating climate change as a result.