In many places around the world, the air is hot, heavy, and depending on the day, clogged with particulate pollution. Your eyes often water. Your cough never seems to disappear. You can no longer simply walk out your front door and breathe fresh air. Instead, before opening doors or windows in the morning, you check your phone to see what the air quality will be. Everything might look fine—sunny and clear—but you know better. When storms and heat waves overlap and cluster, the air pollution and intensified surface ozone levels can make it dangerous to go outside without a specially designed face mask (which only some can afford)
Our world is getting hotter, an irreversible development now utterly beyond our control. We have already passed tipping points, like The Great Melting of the Arctic sea ice, which used to reflect the sun’s heat. Oceans, forests, plants, trees, and soil had for many years absorbed half the carbon dioxide we spewed out. Now there are few forests left, most of them either logged or consumed by wildfire, and the permafrost is belching greenhouse gases into an already overburdened atmosphere..BY CHRISTIANA FIGUERES AND TOM RIVETT-CARNAC
This is the scenario painted by authors Figueres and Rivett-Carnac in their book The Future We Choose, highlighted in a Times magazine article What the World Will Look Like in 2050 If We Don’t Cut Carbon Emissions in Half. The book envisions two scenarios, the bleak future which awaits us if we do nothing and a realistic look at what a 2050 world might be like should we succeed in cutting emissions in half.
They predict that by 2050, in the no-action scenario, areas such as North Africa, the wesern United States, and Australia may be inhabitable within five to 10 years.
Catherine Clifford writes about What 2050 could look like if we don’t do anything about climate change: Hot, a constant cough, regular mask-wearing
Clifford reports that there is some disagreement among scientists about just how dire conditions will be in 2050. There is debate among some scientists if events could become as dire as projected in the book, says Peter Smith, professor of soils and global change at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland.
“Air pollution and emissions that cause climate change go hand in hand, so less action on climate change will mean poorer air quality,” says Peter Smith, professor of soils and global change at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. “Whether it gets as bad as people having to wear masks by 2050 is debatable, [and] it should be possible to provide clean water without climate action.”
Michael E. Mann, professor of atmospheric science at Penn State and director of the Penn State Earth System Science Center and author of “The New Climate War: The Fight to Take Back Our Planet” says the worst-case scenario is a possibility but that he remains optimistic.
“Do I think that’s likely? No — I think we’re already seeing positive movement,” he says. But “there is much more that needs to be done.”
In The climate crisis in 2050: what happens if cities act but nations don’t?, John Vidal writes for The Guardian that the world’s cities as opposed to. national governments are at the forefront of fighting the climate crisis. Cities which, in 30 years, could look radically different.
A projection from the vantage point of a fictional woman born in 2019:
But now she really worries. She may have adapted her own life as far as possible to climate change, but so much is out of her control. The world’s population has grown by 2.5 billion people since she was born in 2019, and carbon concentrations reached the 550 ppm (parts per million) milestone last year – just as the IPCC scientists had forecast they would. They were just 407 ppm when she was born.
“Cities are engines of growth, innovation and prosperity,” António Guterres, then UN secretary general, had said. “It is possible and realistic to realize. net-zero emissions by 2050. But to get there we will need the full engagement of city governments combined with national action and support.”
Sea Level Rise
By 2050, some 300 million people could be flooded out of their homes due to rising sea levels, according to a report Flooded Future: Global vulnerability to sea level rise worse than previously understood.
The degree of sea level rise on flood risk must also be viewed through the lens of land elevations. This data is too costly for poorer countries to access, signaling a flaw in the ability to determine how sea level rise will impact the most vulnerable communities’ coastlines.
To address this shortcoming, Climate Central has produced a model called CoastalDEM which has calculated that many coastlines are lower than once believed.
Accurately measuring coastal elevation over large areas is neither easy nor cheap. Some countries, such as the United States, use a remote-sensing technology called lidar to reliably map the heights of their coastlines, and publicly release the results. Lidar is relatively expensive, however, typically requiring plane, helicopter, or drone overflights, as well as laser-based equipment. Where lidar data are not available, researchers and analysts rely on one of several global datasets, most typically data sensed from Earth’s orbit through a NASA project known as the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission, or SRTM
THREE DECADES FROM TODAY
Sea level rise is a global story, and it affects every coastal nation. But in the coming decades, the greatest effects will be felt in Asia, thanks to the number of people living in the continent’s low-lying coastal areas. Mainland China, Bangladesh, India, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Thailand are home to the most people on land projected to be below average annual coastal flood levels by 2050 (table 2). Together, those six nations account for roughly 75 percent of the 300 million people on land facing the same vulnerability at midcentury.