What is the worst case scenario?

In New York magazine this week, David Wallace-Wells is publishing an interesting series of articles on Climate Change. On Sunday, he published 'The Uninhabitable Earth' a ten point run down of what unchecked Global Warming might have in store for us. Wallace-Wells set out to write up what the worst case scenario might be. Some of it is terrifying, not least the sections on permafrost melt. It was the cover story, it is an important document.

There is a strong argument against using 'fear of the consequences' as a way to inspire environmental behaviour change and we are very sympathetic to this at The Glacier Trust. A better approach is to tell positive stories centered on a vision of a more appealing, low carbon, future. This is what we endeavour to do. We believe in the human spirit, human ingenuity and our ability to adapt. Our projects are proof that positive change is possible. But, this does not mean to say that we shouldn't ever spell out how severe a situation lies ahead for our children. Playing down the potential dangers does not, ultimately, do us any good, Wallace-Wells should be congratulated for documenting what might happen if we get 4, 5 or 6 degrees C of warming over the next few decades.

Following on from the main article is a series of extended interviews with leading climatologists, first: Wallace Smith Broecker, the man who coined the term 'Global Warming'; second, leading paleontologist Peter Ward; and third James Hansen, probably the world's most famous climate scientist.

The main article is a 20 minute read, probably a bit longer if you add in time to follow links, fact check and let out exasperated gasps, but it is worth digesting. It makes one stand out point - by the end of the century, vast numbers of human beings could be in danger of heat death. Especially in the tropics. Here's a passage:

Humans, like all mammals, are heat engines; surviving means having to continually cool off, like panting dogs. For that, the temperature needs to be low enough for the air to act as a kind of refrigerant, drawing heat off the skin so the engine can keep pumping. At seven degrees of warming, that would become impossible for large portions of the planet’s equatorial band, and especially the tropics, where humidity adds to the problem; in the jungles of Costa Rica, for instance, where humidity routinely tops 90 percent, simply moving around outside when it’s over 105 degrees Fahrenheit would be lethal. And the effect would be fast: Within a few hours, a human body would be cooked to death from both inside and out.

Someone hit the alarmist alarm bell! Michael Mann took to Facebook to do exactly that. Sandwiched in between the interviews with Ward, Hansen and Broecker is an unedited Q&A with Mann, the scientist most famous for the 'hockey stick graph'. It is an interesting read. Mann has also co-published an article in the Washington Post this week that points out some of the exaggerations in the Wallace-Wells article and rehearses the arguments against alarmism - also worth a read. 

There maybe more articles to come, keep an eye on @dwallacewells and @NYMag. We will re-tweet and post any follow up articles over on our twitter and facebook pages. 

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