Into the Fossil Intensive future: When could we reach 4C?

It's possible the world will not manage to mitigate emissions of greenhouse gases, and instead stomp on the fossil fuels and speed up global warming.

That's what it looks like right now, with the black diamonds below representing observed emissions, and tracking towards the upper end of estimates:


Today the world's oldest continuously operating scientific body, the United Kingdom's Royal Publishing Society, published a suite of papers looking at the likelihood of a rise of 4 degrees Celsius (7 degrees Fahrenheit) here on earth this century.

Climate Progress writes it up here, mixing this prospect in with a number of other citations to papers and articles on emissions scenarios, methane release, drought, deforestation, desertification, among other scientific prophecies.  

It's well blogged, but as an alternative for those of us unable to keep quite so many thoughts clearly in mind, this post will focus on a single important paper, called

When could global warming reach 4°C?

and attempt to bring forward just three, or perhaps four, of its central points. 

First, when it comes to assessing the skill of global temperature projections, authors Richard Betts et al point out that we have a history already, from the last thirty years of estimates and observations: 

It is unwise to rely on simulations that are outliers in the distribution—indeed the most extreme members of the ensemble simulated warming of 1°C or above by 2000, while warming observed between 1850–1899 and 2001–2005 was between 0.57°C and 0.95°C, with a best estimate of 0.76°C [1].

In other words, our best estimates to date have been pretty solid, actually. 

Second, a scenario without mitigation cannot be ruled out, given the steady rise of emissions, even in the face of a huge economic downturn: 

While it is still too early to say whether any particular scenario is being tracked by current emissions, A1FI is considered to be as plausible as other non-mitigation scenarios and cannot be ruled out. (A1FI is a part of the A1 family of scenarios, with ‘FI’ standing for ‘fossil intensive’.)

And finally, a plausible scenario calls for a 4 degree Celsius rise by 2070:

Our best estimate is that a temperature rise of 4°C would be reached in the 2070s, and if carbon-cycle feedbacks are strong, then 4°C could be reached in the early 2060s—this latter projection appears to be consistent with the upper end of the IPCC’s likely range of warming for the A1FI scenario.

Our children stand likely to see ecological catastrophe on a global scale. 

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  1. dan bloom

    May I (?) gently tweak a bit this say: “It’s by now certain that the world will not manage to mitigate emissions of greenhouse gases, and instead stomp on the fossil fuels and speed up global warming after watching leaders and nations issue mere hot air for the past 4 years…..”…..and adding a final tweet, er, tweak: “Our descendants 500 years from now stand likely to see ecological catastrophe on a global scale.”

    Recently, i posted a faux news report on my blog allegedly copying an interview with me by AP climate reporter Seth Borenstein in DC. He didn’t like my tactics at all and he wrote me on my blog after vanity googling his name in the blogosphere and finding my faux news report:

    ”Dear Dan,
    Somehow, a blog post on your blog has Seth Borenstein interviewing Dan
    Bloom. I did not conduct this interview. It is fiction. It is wrong. It
    is misappropriating my name, expertise and image. I hereby ask you to
    cease and desist. This is unethical and I am greatly offended.
    If this is how you do business Dan, appropriating the reputation of
    legitimate journalists to further your aims, please remove me from your
    mail list.
    Please respond quickly. Signed, Seth.”

    I did take his name off it, because all i wanted to do in these desperate times of him ignoring my cri de couer by email what to get his attention, and it worked. But I still have Lori at the LAT on my blog and let’s see if she gets it: Seth got the same treatment. I apologized of course to him.

    here is her interview with me: as reported in the LA Times:

    Lori Kozlowski of the Los Angeles Times interviews “James Lovelock’s Accidental Student” about polar cities for survivors of global warming in distant future

    Q. and A. with Polar Cities project coordinator re global warming and
    climate chaos in future – WORST CASE SCENARIO

    QUESTION: Tell me, how are your ”polar cities” going to save humanity?

    ANSWER: They are planned and envisioned as climate refuges for climate
    refugees in some distant future we cannot really get our minds around
    yet. They are just an insurance measure, just in case. They might
    serve as lifeboats in a distant time for those remnants of humanity
    who survive what I call the Great Interruption from 25oo AD to 3500 AD
    or longer. Part of the Long Emergency that James Howard Kunstler so
    eloquently talks about in his books, essays and lectures. 90 percent
    of humankind will die in massive die-offs when climate chaos gets real
    bad, 500 years from now. Maybe. Just something to think about. No need
    to agree with me.

    Are you claiming some messiah-like visionary awareness?

    No, no, no. I am just a common bloke, neighborhood dude, just thinking
    out loud. I don’t even believe in a God or anything superstituous or

    What if you’re wrong?

    I want to be wrong. I hope I am wrong.

    Has Dr Lovelock seen your work and images?

    Yes, he has. I sent the images done by Deng Hong-cheng in Taiwan to Dr
    Lovelock, and he replied by email: “Thanks for showing me Deng’s
    images, and yes, it may very well happen, and soon!”

    With no PHD or academic sponsorshop or VIP funding, do you really
    think anyone is going to take you seriously?

    I don’t expect many people to take me seriously. Comes with the territory.

    Aren’t you being a bit arrogant to assume that you know and can see the future?

    No, not at all. Not arrogant at all, very humble about all this in
    fact. I am just sharing some ideas I envision. I don’t expect anyone
    to take me seriously and I don’t seek followers. Jsut some ideas I am
    laying out.

    December 2, 2010