Climate change: what does science predict? What will happen to mankind?

Renewable Power of Destruction by Stéfan, on FlickrWell, that is a great question, and it is one that lots of people have been working very hard to answer for quite some time.

Although there has been lots of variability in the climate since the earth first cooled, much of the climate change that we now see is caused by we humans emitting ‘greenhouse gasses’ into the atmosphere. This is a broadly-held belief amongst scientists supported by very strong evidence. Very few people now disputed that we are causing climate change.

The general scientific predictions are that the earth will warm globally (Australia had to add two new colours to their temperature maps last year for 52 and 54°C!). However, this warming will not be the same everywhere, with some areas being affected more than others. Long-observed patterns, such as summers being sunny, will become less predictable.  The overall warming of the earth will trigger a rise in sea levels. There will also be an increased likelihood of extreme events such as heavier rains and flooding; and longer, harsher droughts.

There will be patterns of species change as life responds to the new conditions. Hence, many people are very concerned about what effects this will have on agricultural production. Pests and diseases will move to different regions and many farming areas are expected to become drier.

The future that all this holds for mankind is another question. Much of it will depend on how we respond to it and what we do now.  If we are proactive and do manage to get greenhouse gas emissions down, the effects might be curtailed. If not then we may be chasing our tails trying to adapt to a very uncertain future.

There are some excellent reads on the subject: The IPCC publishes clear summaries of its reports and  Sir Nicholas Stern’s 2006 review focusses on how CC will affect economies and economics.

Answer by Tilly Collins

Question from Gustavo Gómez via Twitter

Image: Stéfan, on Flickr

Article by Tilly Collins

March 4, 2014

Dr Tilly Collins is in the Centre for Environmental Policy of Imperial College London, UK, and also works at Harper Adams University as an Entomologist (creepy crawly specialist). She supports Queens Park Rangers football club.

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