New research produced by scientists at the University of Calgary and Environment Canada’s climate centre at the University of Victoria shows that even if the world stops emitting carbon dioxide right now, it will still be subjected to cataclysmic climate change.
Using a computer modeling system, the researchers analyzed how the world would change by the year 3000 in a zero emissions scenario. The results are quite striking. The Earth’s land mass would shrink considerably, thanks to sea levels raising four meters in the next century; as a result, many coastal areas will be submerged in water. Additionally, warming oceans will lead to a collapse of the west Antarctic ice shelf — the world’s last marine ice sheet, which is the size of Texas.
These atmospheric changes will lead to widespread drought in Africa, where the model predicts land will dry out by 30%. The researchers say regions in the Northern Hemisphere, such as Russia and Canada are best suited to adapt to climate change, given their geographic positions.
In their study, which will be published in the journal Nature Geoscience, the researchers also looked at different scenarios regarding carbon emissions and Arctic sea ice. According to their findings, if all emissions halted immediately, melting of the ice would continue to worsen for another 10 to 20 years, but would restore itself by 2100. However, if the status quo remains, there will be zero ice in the arctic sea.
Shifting away from a business as usual approach to energy production and consumption has been a very difficult task to say the least. Despite scientists’ mounting evidence and lobbying, a binding international political commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions has continued to fizzle.
Many nations see such a commitment as a serious hindered to economic growth. The European Union currently holds one of the most progressive targets for emissions reductions, with its 20% reduction from 1990 levels by 2020, but even this target does not meet science’s minimum recommendations.
Shawn Marshall, a geography professor at the University of Calgary who currently sits as the Canada Research Chair in Climate Change, says this study should inspire more meaningful political, economic, and social action regarding climate change: “There’s a lot of legacy in the choices we make this century. We’re seeing a lot of the early signs of climate change. If you’re looking at a risk analysis, just realize that these changes we’re making to the atmosphere do have a long-term effect.”