An interesting new infographic from “InformationisBeautiful” concerning carbon dioxide emissions and climate change recently came to my attention, and seemed worth sharing. The infographic goes over many, many things, including: the current rate of carbon emissions, the carbon ‘budget’ if we’re going to avoid a dangerous rise in temperature, current fossil fuel reserves, the various predicted effects of various levels of temperature rise, and a couple of other figures.
I admit to not agreeing with all of the predictions/characterizations here, though — in particular, the reference to Greece, Italy, and Spain, being deserts at a 3–4° Celsius rise irks me. That whole region had a pronouncedly different (more temperate, more humid, more mild) quality to it before being nearly completely deforested during, right before, and after the Bronze Age (very arguably in part playing into and precipitating the late Bronze Age civilizational collapse).
To make my point here — regional and micro-climates matter too, and these can be notably influenced by human behavior in direct ways. While it’s a somewhat controversial point to make, the presence of plants, forests, animals other than humans, etc — all have significant effects on the local and/or micro climate(s). While the wider climate certainly matters, specific regions can be influenced to a great degree by the specifics of that region or locality — building up and supporting the vegetation in a region (or, more likely, in specific inhabited parts) is a possibility (albeit probably a rather expensive one). I’m not at all convinced that all of Southern Europe will be abandoned to desert with a 3–4° Celsius rise in temperature. (End rant.)
Another thing that I’ll mention is that the sea level rise predictions shown in the infographic are very likely low-balling it to a great degree. I understand the primary reason for doing so (so that the predictions don’t prove false), but… sea level rise looks very likely to be far more rapid than those predictions. And perhaps more importantly, far more unpredictable — sea level rise has tended to occur in large pulses. Large increases in relatively short amounts of time are a possibility.
Also… I don’t find the 300,000 figure with regard to how long it’ll take to re-absorb all of the carbon very convincing — the negative feedback loops concerning the carbon cycle are only very poorly understood. It’s something of a crapshoot guessing how long it’ll take for our carbon emissions to “all” be sequestered.
Despite those caveats, it’s an interesting infographic — and possibly (probably?) a good means of communicating the issues to those that aren’t particularly interested in science. So feel free to spread it around!
Image Credit: David McCandless/InformationIsBeautiful
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