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NRC Report Quantifies Anticipated Effects and Impacts of Global Warming, Per Degree of Change

A new report from the National Research Council quantifies, per degree of warming, several anticipated effects and impacts of global warming, including changes in streamflow, wildfires, crop productivity, extreme hot summers, and sea level rise.

Anticipated impacts. The graphical part of the diagram shows how atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide correspond to temperatures—transient, or near-term warming (in blue), is only a fraction of the total warming—the equilibrium warming—expected to occur (in red). Click to enlarge.

The report stresses that choices made now about carbon dioxide emissions reductions will affect climate change impacts experienced not just over the next few decades but also in coming centuries and millennia. Because CO2 in the atmosphere is long-lived, it can effectively lock the Earth and future generations into a range of impacts, some of which could become very severe.

However, the report does not recommend any particular stabilization target, noting that choosing among different targets is a policy choice rather than strictly a scientific one because of questions of values regarding how much risk or damage to people or to nature might be considered too much.

Although some important future effects of climate change are difficult to quantify, there is now increased confidence in how global warming of various levels would relate to several key impacts, says the report. It lists some of these impacts per degree Celsius (or per 1.8 ° Fahrenheit) of global warming, for example (these apply for 1 °C to 4 °C of warming):

  • 5% to 10% less total rain in southwest North America, the Mediterranean, and southern Africa per degree Celsius of warming.
  • 5% to 10% less streamflow in some river basins, including the Arkansas and Rio Grande, per degree Celsius of warming.
  • 5% to 15% lower yields of some crops, including US and African corn and Indian wheat, per degree Celsius of warming.

While total rain is expected to decrease in some areas, more of the rain that does occur is expected to occur in heavy falls in most land areas (3% to 10% more heavy rain per degree Celsius). In addition, warming of 1 °C to 2 °C (1.8 °F to 3.6 °F) could be expected to lead to a two-fold to four-fold increase per degree in the area burned by wildfire in parts of western North America, the report says.

Warming of 3 °C (5.4 °F) would put many millions more people at risk of coastal flooding and lead to the loss of about 250,000 square km of wetlands and drylands.

Warming of 4 °C (7.2 °F) would lead to far warmer summers; about nine out of 10 summers would be warmer than the warmest ever experienced during the last decades of the 20th century over nearly all land areas.

Currently the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is about 390 parts per million volume (ppmv), the highest level in at least 800,000 years. Depending on emissions rates, that level could double or nearly triple by the end of the century, greatly amplifying future human impacts on climate, the report says.

Because the amount of human-caused CO2 emissions already far exceeds the amount that can be removed through natural carbon sinks such as oceans, keeping emissions rates the same will not stabilize the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere. Even if emissions held steady, the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere would increase, much like the water level in a bathtub when water is coming in faster than it is draining. Emissions reductions larger than about 80%, relative to whatever peak global emissions rate may be reached, would be required to approximately stabilize carbon dioxide concentrations for a century or so at any chosen target level.

Further, stabilizing atmospheric concentrations does not mean that temperatures will stabilize immediately. Warming that occurs in response to a given increase in the CO2 concentration is only about half the total warming that will ultimately occur. For example, if the CO2 concentration stabilizes at 550 ppmv, the Earth would warm about 1.6 °C on the way to that level; but even after the CO2 level stabilizes, the warming would continue to grow in the following decades and centuries, reaching a best-estimate global equilibrium warming of about 3 °C (5.4 °F). Waiting to observe impacts before choosing a stabilization target would therefore imply a lock-in to about twice as much eventual crop loss, rainfall changes, and other impacts that increase with warming.

The report offers likely ranges and best estimates of the equilibrium warming that can be expected from various levels of CO2 in the atmosphere.

The report was sponsored by the Energy Foundation and the US Environmental Protection Agency. The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council make up the National Academies.




It is obvious that our area has already been progressively exposed to accelerated climate changes, between +3C to +4C (with similar consequences) within the last 10+ years. This summer may be one of the warmest on records. Being located North of NY, USA, most of the effects are not negative and the majority would say that it is rather pleasant to have warmer weather with shorter winters and warmer summers. Rain fall and agriculture have not been negatively affected yet. It just feels that we moved South by 600 KM to 1000 Km. WILL this fast climate change tapper off during the next 10+ years? If not, another +3C to +4C may have more drastic effects.

Aaron Turpen

Well, good thing all of the warmist predictions have been wrong so far. Even going by GISS/NASA, we see that the past decade has shown a whopping 0.7C rise in temperature (vs. a predicted +7C). Of course, nobody bothers noting that South America is experiencing record colds, the Antarctic is growing to keep pace with the Arctic's shrinkage (which geologically is a routine event), and so forth.

Not that you'll see that kind of propaganda here, since it has nothing to do with CARS. Just like this post here doesn't.


What has this to do with green cars again??

Sanity Chk

Reel$$ == "broken record"

If you don't get it and never will, then stop trying.

Sanity Chk

Aaron: To spout unfounded assertions and state conclusions based on them makes you sound like a hack.

Your unrelenting unsupported diatribe is the only propaganda here. Get real guy. Start by reading some of the actual research that you are so quick to dismiss.

Stop being part of the problem.

Nat Pearre

"we see that the past decade has shown a whopping 0.7C rise in temperature (vs. a predicted +7C)."

Which models were predicting 7C by now? I've never seen any number like that. The highest end of any range I remember seeing was about 1.5C. Maybe you're thinking of some worst-case predictions of 7C by the end of the century?


@Sanity Chk
I believe your criticism of Reel$$ was misplaced. His saying "What has this to do with green cars again??" may have just been his way of poking fun at AT, who starts almost all his posts with that question and then follows it with all the unfounded assertions, unsupported diatribe and denialist propaganda you noted.


And now @Aaron Turpen

Seeing as how it seems you're just going to endlessly repeat the Antarctic thing I'm going to save myself some effort and just copy/paste what I've already written: "One favorite tactic of the deniers is to simplify the science; they home in on one 'fact' or another and proclaim THEY have found the fatal flaw that thousands of scientists, from around the world, after decades of research, have not. Well I have to say the world is not that simple and Antarctica is like a world unto itself: It sits surrounded by ocean at the bottom of the world, isolated by strong sea and air currents. With an average elevation about 7,544ft/2,300 meters above sea level it is the highest continent, putting most of its surface into the colder air of the higher altitudes and that means snow is going to fall there just like it does on mountain tops. And of course all you need for snow is water vapour in the air to hit a cold front. Antarctica is one BIG cold front and because every 1 degree of higher air temperature in the rest of the world allows the air to hold 4% more water vapour you can easily get more ice in the heart of Antarctica."

"Snow has some interesting properties that result in it being both an effect and cause of cold weather and it may sound like a contradiction but global warming can actually cause more snow to fall: For every 1 degree of temperature rise the air gains the ability to hold 4% more water vapour. That water can't stay in the air however; whenever a warm/wet air mass hits a cold air mass the water condenses out and you get rain, or snow if it is cold enough (as it is in winter). Once you've got snow on the ground in one area you get lower temperatures because snow reflects sunlight and the deeper the snow is the longer this effect can work on lowering the temperature. Denialists will often ask 'if AGW is real why is the Antarctic ice sheet growing?' The most likely explanation is that the snow and ice in Antarctica is so clean that its albedo is higher and it's already so thick the local cooling effect has staying power. The reason this does not happen in the Arctic is because the northern hemisphere's jet stream meanders more than the southern one due to northern landmasses(a polar jetstream forms at about 60 degress latitude, that places the northern one over mostly land and the southern one over mostly ocean) getting in its way: Bringing cold air south and warm air north. It's these "Rossby Waves" that causes warm/wet air fronts to hit cold air fronts and generate the afore mentioned rain/snowfalls."

Sanity Chk

ai_vin: wrt Reel$$, I might be inclined to agree were it not for previous Reel$$ posts such as:

"OMG yawn... No one buys this climate BS anymore."


"Hold it... Is that?? Yes. It's the sound of crickets coming from the alarmist bunker. "

and a host of others making it painfully clear that he labors on unencumbered by the facts and their implications - clearly in the same camp as Aaron Turpin.


It's still amazes me that these guys go to sites unencumbered with real data, and take it wholesale and then try to redistribute it. Scary as heck.


Sanity - thank you for resurrecting our old gems. "Copy is the highest form of flattery..."

ai- is not far off, the need to satirize both sides of this tired old saw is large. But here is an interesting article written by Stanford Nobel laureate (Physics) Robert Laughlin on the remarkable resiliency of the Earth and its climate:

On the geological time scale the problems of percieved climate change are meaningless. The problems of species invasion, habitat destruction and resource depletion are very Reel$$.


Oh yes the Earth will recover from anything we do to it if given enough time but the problem is WE have to live with the effects of what we do to it in the meantime. Speaking of "geologic time" - it only took us 200 years to dig/pump up the carbon that the good old Earth took 300,000,000 years to bury.


It is now official. Average temperature in our area (850+ KM North of NY city) was +3.5C higher (Jan to July 2010) than the same period (average 1991-2009). Those +3.5C had very visible effects on nature. All crops are 3 to 4 weeks early. Lawn grass was 4 to 6 weeks early in most places. Thunderstorms are up 400+%. Days above +30C have multiplied. What will be next?


A plague of locusts??


Why not, many species have the same swarming instincts;
and a 100 years ago the Rocky Mountain locust (Melanoplus spretus) was an American plague of locusts;


R$$ and ai-vin:

You may be right. Part of Sask. Province is already being invested with Nile disease carrying insects. We (and many other places North of the Border) may be next? Alberta, with many square KM of toxic tailing pounds may be spared. Would that be enough to justify further tar sand operations?


Back awhile I was talking to some friends elsewhere on this big set o tubes;/

We were talking aboiut climate change and the matter of TRUST.

Do you trust these people to get you to the other side of this alive? The answer was HELL NO.

Sometimes it isnt that they are wrong its that they are idiotic twits we dearly wish would die in a fire before they breed.

Just because we are in danger doesnt mean we trust the man who yelled fire.. He may just have been a very observant moron.

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