THESE GRAPHS (below) SEEM COMPLEX but they are an excellent visualization of the heart of the crisis facing us. They are also show the essential information for evaluating and planning how to determine if it is possible to deal with the severe outcome scientists expect. Here is what the graphs mean:
1. All the damage, fires, intense storms, extreme heat, melting of the Arctic ice cap has come from an overall climate temperature increase of just under 1°C. Realizing that holding to 1°C was impossible in the Paris Accords all the nations agreed to hold the Earth's temperature to less that 1.5°C although even this seemingly small increase will give us more severe problems.
2. However the pledges (light blue band) are not nearly enough to achieve 1.5°C. The vertical double arrow on the extreme right shows the "gap" between the pledges and the need. This is an extremely troubling situation.
3. The fallback target has become 2°C, but the pledges don't come close to achieving that either. At 2°C the weather events in many parts of the world, the intensity of storms, the high temperatures, the droughts and so forth will cause enormous suffering and damage. One estimate I read of reaching 2°C was about 50%.
However making large reductions in emissions quickly is a very difficult problem. To meet energy needs you would need many windmills which cannot be built overnight in large quantities. Most important we need nuclear power. Current reactor designs are fail-safe (sodium) and are the logical supply of emission free energy, but despite only minor incidents (other than Chernobel) governments have been reluctant to push nuclear. And the tragedy in Japan looks to an engineer like simple incompetance. Does not anyone know what worst case risk analysis is? Also standardization on a very small number of designs helps in many ways and perhaps "baby nukes" of 500 GW or so could be mass produced.At present we are looking at up to 3°C and it is not possible with today's climate models to predict the impact of that much temperature rise.
4. The next part of the problem is timing and the rise in sea level and that is the purpose of the second graph.
THE VERTICAL AXIS in the first graph showed quantity of global greenhouse gas emissions, in this graph the vertical axis numbers are on the right and show meters of sea level rise. (Note: one meter is 3.28 feet or a little over a yard; for imagining situations where I just want a rough idea, I think of a meter as one yard).
Here the issue is time. At present overall emissions are growing. However, there is no sceneario of which I am aware that shows emission GROWTH dropping to zero. The implication is staggering, and excluding truly extreme measures combined with stunning luck, I consider this the loss of life on the Earth as we have known it.
Annapolis, Maryland when tide, wind and storm surge coincide.