Monday, September 9, 2013

All Us Drowned, Burned, Starved Rats

Recently I came across a purported map by National Geographic of what the world would look like if all the ice melted. They got stuff wrong (they failed to note that higher ocean temperatures would expand the water, leading to about another 22 feet of rise beyond the 216 feet of land ice melting), and they failed to make clear that higher energy in storms means higher storm surges (like about 40-50 feet instead of 10-20), effectively making the real area affected by ocean salt water (read: it gets into the fresh-water supply, so you can’t live there) close to 300 feet above where it is now. They did note that there would be a vast increase in deserts, and places uninhabitable due to heat (according to Joe Romm’s citation of a study, there’s a 2% decrease in productivity for every degree above 77 F, meaning that when you get to 110 degrees, you can’t do much). Still, the general outlines are clear.

So here’s a brief summary, in no particular order:

• Florida, gone. Louisiana, gone. Mississippi, mostly gone.
• Major US cities on the coast from Boston to NYC to Charleston to Houston to ILA to much of San Francisco (plus a big inland sea), gone.
• Greenland (they got this wrong), an archipelago about ½ its present size. Same for Antarctica.
• Holland, Belgium, Denmark, gone. Eastern England and London, northern Germany, Venice, gone.
• Caspian Sea doubles in size, connects with Black Sea.
• Habitable Libya on the seacoast becomes an island.
• Most of eastern China from Beijing to Shanghai goes underwater, and so does most of Southern Vietnam and Cambodia.
• Bangladesh and much of Pakistan (the Indus valley) is beneath the wave.
• Australia loses much of the coastal strip where four of five Aussies now live, and there’s a new big inland sea or maybe an inlet of the ocean in the center.
• It goes without saying that most of the Pacific islands are gone, gone, gone.
• And, of course, the world’s deltas, where a large percentage of food is grown today, are gone.

All this is for our descendants – like, 2200, not 2030. But we are locking in its inevitability right now. And, as noted, we will also be burned by the heat and starved by the destruction of crop-growing land.

Not a pretty picture.