Historians may look to 2015 as the year when shit really started hitting the fan. Some snapshots: In just the past few months, record-setting heat waves in Pakistan and India each killed more than 1,000 people. In Washington state's Olympic National Park, the rainforest caught fire for the first time in living memory. London reached 98 degrees Fahrenheit during the hottest July day ever recorded in the U.K.; The Guardian briefly had to pause its live blog of the heat wave because its computer servers overheated. In California, suffering from its worst drought in a millennium, a 50-acre brush fire swelled seventyfold in a matter of hours, jumping across the I-15 freeway during rush-hour traffic. Then, a few days later, the region was pounded by intense, virtually unheard-of summer rains. Puerto Rico is under its strictest water rationing in history as a monster El Niño forms in the tropical Pacific Ocean, shifting weather patterns worldwide.
...sea levels could rise 10 times faster than previously predicted:
10 feet by 2065. The authors included this chilling warning: If
emissions aren't cut, "We conclude that multi-meter sea-level rise would
become practically unavoidable. Social disruption and economic
consequences of such large sea-level rise could be devastating. It is
not difficult to imagine that conflicts arising from forced migrations
and economic collapse might make the planet ungovernable, threatening
the fabric of civilization...."
So far, dead zones have remained mostly close to the coasts, but in
the 21st century, deep-ocean dead zones could become common. These
low-oxygen regions could gradually expand in size — potentially
thousands of miles across — which would force fish, whales, pretty much
everything upward. If this were to occur, large sections of the
temperate deep oceans would suffer should the oxygen-free layer grow so
pronounced that it stratifies, pushing surface ocean warming into
overdrive and hindering upwelling of cooler, nutrient-rich deeper water.
...Enhanced evaporation from the warmer oceans will create heavier
downpours, perhaps destabilizing the root systems of forests, and
accelerated runoff will pour more excess nutrients into coastal areas,
further enhancing dead zones. In the past year, downpours have broken
records in Long Island, Phoenix, Detroit, Baltimore, Houston and
Evidence for the above scenario comes in large part from our best
understanding of what happened 250 million years ago, during the "Great
Dying," when more than 90 percent of all oceanic species perished after a
pulse of carbon dioxide and methane from land-based sources began a
period of profound climate change. The conditions that triggered "Great
Dying" took hundreds of thousands of years to develop. But humans have
been emitting carbon dioxide at a much quicker rate, so the current mass
extinction only took 100 years or so to kick-start.