How close is the permanent climate catastrophe?

Climate in the near-equatorial, impoverished and low-carbon emitting tropics could permanently depart the bound of historic variability as soon as 2020. For much of the rest of the world, climate could depart historic ranges by about 2047.

That’s according to a comprehensive 2013 study in the journal Nature that is worth another look. The study includes an index of the year when regional climates will, in effect, have changed forever.

The earliest departures from historical ranges are expected in low-income countries. Extinctions will soar in countries within 2,500 miles of the equator, where ecosystems have less tolerance for temperature variation. Ecological disruptions could lead to social unrest, as tropical areas become unlivable. More than five billion people live in areas where, by 2050, climate is projected to exceed the range that prevailed from 1860 to 2005.

The study, which predates the 2015 Paris climate agreement, said forestalling permanent climate change requires bigger commitments from developed countries to decrease their emissions. But under any scenario, financing for climate adaptation is also urgent.

Progress, the authors write, “will also require more extensive funding of social and conservation programmes in developing countries to minimize the impacts of climate change.”

This post originally appeared in ImpactAlpha's daily newsletter. Get The Brief.

Photo credit: Nature

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