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Argument: Unchecked climate change will be too devastating to adapt to

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Supporting quotations

"The adaptation trap and the nonskeptical delayers (like Roger Pielke) — Part 1." Climate Progress. March 28, 2008: "The real question for humanity is whether we can avoid 800 to 1000 ppm or more. That is what the delayers and nonskeptical heretics simply don’t understand. At 800 to 1000 ppm, the world faces faces multiple catastrophes, including: Sea level rise of 80 feet to 250 feet at a rate of 6 inches a decade (or more). Desertification of one third the planet and drought over half the planet, plus the loss of all inland glaciers. More than 70% of all species going extinct, plus extreme ocean acidification."


"The adaptation trap. Part II." Climate Progress. March 28, 2008: "Unfortunately, the part of climate change that can’t be adapted to is coming much faster than we feared. If we can keep total warming from preindustrial levels to 2°C or lower, than genuine adaptation is possible. The more we go above 2°C, the more adaptation will be replaced by suffering.

LIVING/SUFFERING IN A 1000 PPM WORLD

I listed only three catastrophes that would probably occur at 800 to 1000 ppm because I think those are the most serious and most inevitable. But they are hardly the only ones. A major 2005 study of the impacts of about 800 ppm on the United States found in the second half of this century (from 2071 to 2095) a vast swath of the country would see average summer temperature rise by a blistering 9°F.

Houston and Washington, DC would experience temperatures exceeding 98°F for some 60 days a year. Oklahoma would see temperatures above 110°F some 60 to 80 days a year. Much of Arizona would be subjected to temperatures of 105°F or more for 98 days out of the year–14 full weeks. We won’t call these heat waves anymore. As the lead author, Noah Diffenbaugh, of Purdue University said to me, “We will call them normal summers.”

Climate scientists don’t spend a lot of time studying 800 to 1000 ppm, in part because they can’t believe humanity would be so self-destructive as to ignore their increasingly dire warnings and fail to stabilize at well below 550 ppm. The IPCC notes that if equilibrium CO2-equivalent concentrations hit 1000 ppm, the “best estimate” for temperature increase is 5.5°C (10°F), which means that over much of the inland United States, temperatures would be about 15°F higher.

This increase would be the end of life as we know it on this planet. Interestingly, 5.5°C is just about the temperature difference between now and the end of the last ice age, the difference between a livable climate for human civilization that is well suited to agriculture and massive glaciers from the North Pole down to Indiana.

Is it 100% certain that 1000 ppm would result in:

Sea level rise of 80 feet to 250 feet at a rate of 6 inches a decade; Desertification of one third the planet and drought over half the planet, plus the loss of all inland glaciers; and More than 70% of all species going extinct, plus extreme ocean acidification? Of course not. Such certainty is not possible for a climate transition that is completely unprecedented in the history of the human species. I can state with very high confidence that the possibility all of those outcomes will occur is higher than the world seeing even a single “science and engineering-based technological breakthrough” (let alone several as delayers like Pielke seem to be counting on) in the next quarter century or so significant enough to somehow avert such catastrophes far more cheaply than simply acting now with existing technology to avoid 450 ppm."

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