We’ve seen some stark and disturbing predictions when it comes to climate change in recent months, but perhaps none are more dire than the one that was released last week. In a stunning new report commissioned by the U.N., researchers say that a 3-5ºC (5.4-9ºF) rise in temperature is the Arctic is now unavoidable, bringing potentially dire consequences along with it. Worse yet, those predictions could be on the conservative side, even if we hit the goals set in the Paris agreements.
The report predicts that temperatures at the North Pole will rise on average by 3ºC by the middle of the century, with that increase stretching to as much as 9ºC (16.2ºF) by the year 2100. If true, that means a massive melt off is likely in order, increasing sea levels around the planet. Some scientists are even saying that such a dramatic shift could create a climate tipping point, pushing the planet to environmental conditions that haven’t been recorded in hundreds of thousands of years.
Part of the issue is that the permafrost in the Arctic is starting to thaw out and the carbon dioxide that has been trapped in the ground is being released into the air. This will cause the region to warm even more quickly, creating a cascading effect. Climate models indicate that if the permafrost does indeed release its CO2, it could lead to a 2ºC (3.6ºF) rise in temperature on a global scale. Some reports even suggest that there could be long-dormant diseases –– and even anthrax –– trapped in the ground as well, which could also be released on the planet.
It should be noted that there are some climatologists who are disputing the U.N.’s report saying that there is still time to avoid disaster in the Arctic. Those researchers aren’t suggesting that the predictions won’t come to pass, but that the are not “locked in” as last week’s report indicates. That gives us hope that something can be done to avoid what seems inevitable at this point, although if the U.N.’s environmental team is accurate, the shift in Arctic temperatures is now unavoidable.
Either way, the clock is ticking at this point. Many of us won’t be around to see the final results of this of course, but the future is starting to look very grim for the generations that are following us.
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