Consensus among the world's leading climate scientists has established a 2°C rise in global mean temperature as the tipping point for runaway climate change, but even that could result in catastrophic rises in sea level of as much as 6-7 meters (23 feet), energy expert Ian Dunlop and policy planner and scholar Tapio Kanninen told audiences at packed meetings and panel discussions at UN headquarters in New York City organized by the Finnish Mission to the United Nations, the Club of Rome, the Temple of Understanding and the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs.
Sea level rises of 6-7 meters would wipe out coastal cities, including London, New York, Shanghai and Tokyo, and that's even if we could somehow manage to limit global average temperature rise to 2°C this century, Dunlop and Kanninen told shocked audiences at the UN, according to a Club of Rome report.
On track for 4C rise in global temps; 230-foot rise in sea level
If current trends in fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions continue, global temperatures would rise as much as 4°C or more. That would lead to sea level rises of up to 70 meters (230 feet), Dunlop and Kanninen stated as they “presented new evidence demonstrating the severity of the crisis of global sustainability and global survivability,” the topic of discussion for the mix of diplomats, political decision makers, sustainable development experts and NGOs who attended the meetings.
Dunlop's experience in the field includes over 30 years working as an engineer and senior executive at the Royal Shell Group. He also is the former leader of Australia's Emissions Trading Panel.
Commenting on the latest scientific evidence, “Today's leaders refuse to accept that climate change science and the concept of Peak Oil condemns the international community to a catastrophic future,” Dunlop said.
“Why are we still exploring for fossil fuels since we can only burn 20-30% of reserves if we wish to keep climate change to the 2°C limit, while current policies will result in warming of 4-6°C?”
Perhaps even more shocking a 4°C rise in temperature results in a global human carrying capacity of 0.5-1 billion as compared to a present-day human population of 7 billion.
Urgently needed: drastic economic restructuring, emergency response mechanisms
Scientists have identified a number of climate change tipping points the reaching of which “exponentially and dramatically accelerate global warming trends,” Kanninen, a fomer long-time UN staff member and policy planner, pointed out. These will be reached in “a matter of years, not decades. We must take action before it is too late to avert a catastrophe,” he was paraphrased as saying.
Current policy measures and institutional frameworks are incapable of avoiding or preventing these scenarios from playing out, the pair emphasized. What's needed, they said, is “a change in the entire system plus an emergency response.
“If runaway climate change leads to rising sea levels the next move has to be to urgently overhaul the UN and our global governance system so it is capable of dealing with rapidly changing global and regional conditions.”
Image credit: Cherrylynx, courtesy flickr