It turns out that global warming estimates may have been skewed, and that the rise in temperature is serious but not as dire as we had thought.
Global Warming Estimates
According to the Paris climate agreement, Humanity must not exceed a rise of 2 degrees Celsius in global temperature if we’re to avoid turning a serious situation into something truly terrifying. While global warming estimates from top researchers suggested that the range of the temperature rise could be as high as 3 degrees Celsius, a recent study published in the journal Nature suggests that the range is actually more narrow, at around 1.2 degrees.
Global warming estimates are unfortunately plagued with uncertainty, and these numbers are made up of a number of complicated factors, considering the various aspects that both contribute to and address the problem of rising global temperatures. This new estimate makes it seem like the situation, while still very concerning, may not be quite as immediately devastating as we had previously thought.
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Lead author Peter Cox of the University of Exeter discussed the measurement of the global warming estimates, indicated by a metric known as equilibrium climate sensitivity.
“It’s essentially the amount of global warming we would predict if we just doubled the atmospheric carbon dioxide and let the atmosphere and climate come to equilibrium with the carbon dioxide.”
Wired reports that for the past 25 years, the range for these global warming estimates has been between 1.5 and 4.5 degrees Celsius. This many not seem like a big bump in temperature, but considering that a one degree bump can cause 5 to 10 percent less rainfall during the dry season in the Mediterranean, and it’s easy to see how dire the situation can get with an increase of multiple degrees. A 3 degree increase would result in the Earth losing 100000 square miles of wetlands and drylands.
A Narrow Range
For quite some time, scientists have been working to narrow this range in order to give us a better global warming estimates and a better way to understand how our actions impact the world around us. Cox stated that “The consequence of it being so large is that you can have certain camps argue that it could be on the low side, so why do we worry, and other camps worry it’s on the high side, which means there’s a catastrophe coming and there’s nothing we can do about it.”
Having a more accurate range will help people reach a more general consensus on global warming estimates, which should hopefully drive policy and action in the right direction. If drastic action is necessary and the science shows that the increase does exceed two degree figure mentioned in the Paris Climate agreement, it will be much easier to motivate people to action if it’s impossible to argue that the increase doesn’t actually exist. A reduction of almost 50% in the variation of global warming estimates should have a big impact on the way we talk about climate change as a whole.