William asked what ML thought would happen with two degrees. I suspect the reason he asked that is that most of us believe that two degrees is in the pipeline, and pretty much inescapable now. Indeed, I reckon we’ll see it (wrt 1960) within a few decades (wrt now).

Ideally folk should go read the book, but this is the gist of the one and two degree chapters - via section titles (and my parenthetic summary):

  • One degree
    • America’s Slumbering Desert (droughts, soil loss etc)
    • (An aside on the fact that the Day After Tomorrow hasn’t and isn’t likely to happen)
    • Africa’s Shining Mountain (fairwell glaciers on kilimanjaro, implications for water)
    • Ghost Rivers of the Sahara (greening the Sahara, yes, no, maybe, floods and droughts).
    • The Arctic Meltdown Begins (tipping points for ice, permafrost melt, drying)
    • Danger in the Alps (mountains and villages at risk of destruction as permafrost melts)
    • Queenslands Frogs Boil (dramatic biodiversity loss, in rainforests and reefs, in Queensland and elsewhere)
    • Hurricane Warnings in the South Atlantic (are hurricane characteristics changing?)
    • Sinking Atolls (bye bye Tuvalu, Kiribati etc)
  • Two degrees
    • China’s Thirsty Cities (water shortages)
    • Acidic Oceans (real problems for phytoplankton, and thus everything)
    • Mercury Rise in Europe (i.e. more heat waves)
    • Mediteranean Sunburn (fires and drought)
    • The coral and the icecap (sea level rise beyond the IPCC predictions)
    • Last stand of the polar bear (arctic melting)
    • Indian summer (food production decline, water issues)
    • Peru’s melting point (glacier melt leading to water shortage)
    • Sun and Snow in California (water crisis)
    • Feeding the Eight Billion (ups and downs in food production, net down)
    • Silent Summer (climate change too quick for ecosystems, mass extinctions)

There is clearly much more. Please read the book, even if you want to disagree with a few of the details! Obviously ML is cherry picking the literature, but there is much more out there, and I don’t think it’s unrepresentative!

Some of this echoes what I’ve always said: In the near future, the climate change risks are not about magnitude and human comfort (hot, cold), they’re about climate change speed, and it’s implications for ecosystems, water, and food.

comments (3)

Dr Moosa (on Friday 09 January, 2009)

Disagree with contents, Author must know what’s happing in Himalaya region contain the world’s third largest ice mass after Antarctica and Greenland. please read this article

Siachen: a global threat? http://www.thenews.com.pk/print1.asp?id=155765 Tuesday, January 06, 2009 By Arshad H Abbasi

Glaciers are the most sensitive indicators of climate change. The Himalayas contain the world’s third largest ice mass after Antarctica and Greenland. Himalayan glaciers act as climate regulators and are also natural heads of rivers that flow down to half of humanity. Most Himalayan glaciers have been thinning and retreating at an ever accelerating rate to alarming levels for the past two decades. Worldwide, it is considered that the melting of glaciers is due to atmospheric warming but in the case of Himalayan glaciers, direct human intervention on a large scale is the most significant cause. Melting of the Himalayan glaciers is already causing varyiance in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events but its worst impact on global sea level rise is underestimated.

Rising sea-level is the most serious threat to the populations living in coastal areas. Satellite measurements since 1993 show sea-level rising at an average annual rate of about 0.3 millimeter (Inter Governmental panel for Climate Change report- 2007). At the current rate, oceans would have risen by 1400 millimeter in year 2100.

In the past it was assumed that the expansion of water due to temperature rise globally would lead significantly to sea-level rise. This idea has now been overturned according to a report by Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory of 2008, which states that sea level rise contributions by glaciers are almost double that of thermal expansion.

Statistics of the last two decades show that rise of sea-level also increases the frequency and intensity of hurricane and cyclones. The energy released by the average hurricane has increased by around 70% in the past 30 years or so. Five of the ten most expensive storms in United States history have occurred since 1990 with Katrina, for example, in 2005 inflicting over $80 billion damages to the US economy.

Economic consequences of sea level rise and its threat to global coastal community are analyzed by Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The report has attempted to estimate the exposure of the world’s large port cities to coastal flooding due to sea level rise. The analysis demonstrates that most of the largest port cities are found in Asia while three major cities of the US, Miami, New York and New Orleans are also susceptible. In 2070 total population exposed to such dangers could grow to around 150 million people. The total asset exposure could grow even more dramatically, reaching US $35 trillion.

To address consequences of sea level rise, the OECD suggests effective disaster management strategies and land use practices. This may well be necessary but some obvious truths are missed. They are not aware that Himalayan glaciers – the main source of sea level-rise are victims of a 24 year long Siachen conflict between India and Pakistan.

The Siachen glacier is melting at an unprecedented rate due to deployment of troops and establishment of permanent cantonments. In order to facilitate the troops, glacial ice has been cut and melted; cutting and melting of glacial ice through application of chemical have made it the fastest melting glacier. In earlier articles, the author highlighted dumping chemicals, metals, organic and human waste, daily leakages from 2000 gallons of kerosene oil from 250 km plastic pipeline laid by India throughout the glacier as accelerating its melting process.

Unquestionably, it is the Siachen conflict due to which the glaciers of Himalayan region are receding faster than in any other part of the world. Siachen is located on extreme north-west of India where 95% of Indian glaciers lie and India maintains large number of troops there. The Indian Army has developed various means to reach Siachen, including the highest road in the world - Delhi-Manali-Leh-Siachen route. These war specific developments are death sentences for Himalayan glaciers.

Gangotri glacier, the longest Indian glacier presents another case of melting due to human intervention. Glacier is melting at the rate of 32 meters per year, second to Siachen (110 meters per year) due to visits by 400 thousand pilgrims and mountaineers every year. Realizing the impact of human presence on glacier melting, the Indian Expert Committee on Glaciers headed by Dr. B. R. Arora in 2007 recommended that the country restrict tourist and pilgrim traffic to Gangotri and other Himalayan glaciers immediately.

Despite vociferous protests and warning by experts and civil society of South Asia to save Himalayan glaciers neither Pakistan nor India have changed their stance. The heavy economic cost (Pakistan with $ 1 million/day and India $2 million/day) to maintain troops at Siachen since 1984 continues to be a financial disaster for both countries. In the current economic crises that has affected the whole globe; the Indian Army has opened yet another military air base close to the Chinese border near Siachen in Nov 2008.

Climate change is by far the biggest threat ever encountered by humankind. It is time that the global leadership and community work with Pakistani and Indian leaders to save Himalayan glaciers by solving the long-standing Siachen dispute. Not only is this conflict adding to environmental degradation, sea level rise and changing climate pattern but it is also depriving the poor of both countries of close to one billion dollars every year that these countries spend to maintain troops there.

The writer is a visiting senior research fellow CRSS, Islamabad. Email: ahabasi@gmail.com

Bryan (on Saturday 10 January, 2009)

Dr Moosa.

You need to read the book before you disagree. One of the chapter headings was Indian Summer, and my parenthetic summary included water issues. ML spent a lot of time on glacies and sea level, and the issues for India and Pakistan.

William (on Tuesday 13 January, 2009)

You’d hope a senior research fellow would be able to multiply 3mm/yr (not 0.3 mm) by ~100 years and end up with 300 mm, not 1400 mm. Ah well.

Thanks for the summary. That confirms what I’d hoped: he doesn’t have anything new that no-one lese has thought of. The difficult ones are mostly ecosystems, about which I know little.