The Next 20 Years of Life on Earth: Runaway Global Heating.

If James Lovelock is correct, we have roughly 20 years left, (give or take a few), before the CO2 levels push us in uncontrollable global warming. Wild extremes in the weather will be the norm. (They are becoming the norm now). The end result will a 6C to 10C rise by the year 2100, meaning the end of all life as we know it.

It is already stated that at current CO2 levels, the glaciers in Himalayan mountains will be gone by 2030, leaving some 500 million people without water. this projection of glacier lost is true around the world, several rivers will be dry, or seasonal creeks in the next 20 years.

One of the things that never seems to be mentioned, is that rivers aren’t going to be gone suddenly, like a tap being turned off, but will become smaller each year for a number years, and will likely have more stresses put upon them as they dwindle.

A 2C rise, now widely conceded as inevitable, is said to be enough to turn most of the grain belt regions in the US into desert. California produces 75% of our vegetables and is falling into a drought. When species like blue fin tuna are likely to be extinct in the next 10 years, and with overfishing resulting in a collapse of fisheries worldwide, the amount of available food will keep shrinking despite a steady rise in the human population.

Obviously, when food systems around the world fail, along with massive shortages of water, the world population will be taking a nosedive. There is no way to stop the heating from the CO2, as it is already in the atmosphere. Forest death throughout the Canadian Rockies and the Amazon from global heating will but even more CO2 in the atmosphere.

It is always possible that a sudden, catastrophic loss of life in the First World will help delay things because there would suddenly be less cars and less pollution produced with a lot fewer Americans. ( A lot fewer African nomads isn’t going to cut down on CO2 emissions at all). But again, the CO2 overload in the atmosphere already means that the planet is going to warm up, no matter what we do.

The COP15 Copenhagen summit certainly made clear that saving the planet was secondary to making money, and there is little reason to believe that another climate summit, this time in Mexico City in 2010 is going to produce any major shifts in thinking.

So one could say that we’re screwed. We have maybe 20 years of ‘normal’ life left before everything starts to fall apart. What do you do? If I was in my 20s, I would be furious. As it is, I’m old enough that another 20 years before kicking the bucket sounds just about right. Not a great old age, but certainly old enough. I have to have hope because I have children, but I certainly would not blame them if they decide not to have children themselves. In fact, the group VHMENT (pronounced vehement) which stands for Voluntary Human Extinction Movement preaches that the only way to save the planet is for humans to stop reproducing. This might have worked if we had started in the 1970s, but we should been working harder to get off oil in the '70s too.

Okay, things look unbearably bleak. If the next 20 years of life are your last, what do you do?

Not worry too much, that’s what I’d do.

I know that manmade carbon dioxide emissions have already increased temperatures around the globe and are going to continue doing so. I also know that as long as globalization continues and large corporations remain in control of the political system, there won’t be any serious action to bring carbon dioxide levels down. At most, there will be minor actions to reduce the rate of increase. However, tossing around phrases like “the end of all life as we know it” is not a good response. We can survive a two-degree increase in temperature, or a six-degree, if necessary. Local variations of a few degrees are not that unusual, and we’re able to cope with them. Besides which, the technology to cope with changes constantly improves. We have many more heat- and drought-resistant crops now than we did a generation ago. A generation from now we’ll have even more.

I’m more concerned about what will happen in the poorest countries, which by definition have the fewest resources available to cope with disasters. People in places like Bangladesh, the Maldives, and most of Africa will be the ones who truly suffer.

It will be interesting to see if the pro-GW 'dopers will come in and correct some of the myriad exaggerations in the OP. I’ll leave it to them or some others to address that stuff.

Unlike the suffering they have done for the last, oh, say, 150 years? Or did you mean they will suffer more?

The future always looks unbearably bleak. People have been predicting similar gloom and doom for, well, for as long as people have been predicting. What will I do if THIS time the gloom and doomers are right? Well, I’ll cope…just like everyone else.

Two things on this. First off, you are deluding yourself if you think that even IF all that gloomy stuff you put in the OP is going to cause a die off here in the US…or Europe, or Japan, South Korea, etc etc. Not. Gonna. Happen. IF all that miserable shit happens the folks who are going to die off are the ones who ALREADY die in droves. Folks in Africa, in Central and South America, etc etc.

Secondly, you should wish death on Chinese instead of American’s (though I know it’s not quite kosher, ehe?), since China has become the largest CO2 producing nation (several years ago actually), while the US’s CO2 emissions have pretty much leveled out (or are even dropping slightly).


What exactly does that mean? Everything goes extinct? We have to make some adjustments? Things will be different in the future?

Cite, please.

Although some places will receive less rainfall others will receive more. Yes, the “frost belt” will move north but that doesn’t mean everything goes to dust - more likely, what used to be grown in Oklahoma will be growing in, say, South Dakota. I also question if a mere 2C rise will turn vast areas into deserts.

There is also the fact that irrigation allows us to practice agriculture in dry or desert areas. Yes, there are problems with extensive irrigation, too, but people will deal with those problems in preference to starving to death.

Actually, since most of California’s agricultural areas are already in semi-arid or even desert areas they have always been in a “drought”.

Also keep in mind that Calfornia producing such a high percentage of our vegetables is a relatively recent phenomena. Fruits and vegetables can certainly be grown elsewhere, they have been, are, and will be. Maybe Oregon will become the new vegetable producer. That doomsday statement sort of assumes that vegetables can only be grown in California but that just ain’t so.

Why do you assume the First World is going to have a massive die off?

You see, the First World has the resources to move agriculture to new regions, implement wide-scale irrigation, divert entire rivers and lakes for water, and the population has the means to pay increased food prices. If the agricultural output of the US, for example, is halved the Americans will still eat - they will also export and donate a hell of a lot less to the Third World. Various nations, if they get desperate enough, may simply take what they need from less advantaged countries whether it’s right or wrong.

The massive die off will come to the impoverished and less developed nations much more so than the industrialized and relatively wealthy nations.

Learn to garden? Move north? Buy lakefront property?

Giving up hope, however, is not an option for me.

I’ve been hearing DOOM DOOM DOOM since the 1970’s. It hasn’t happened yet. Yes, some things have gotten worse, but others have gotten better, believe it or not. The only sure thing about the future is that some things will change.

I DO agree with the OP that the over fishing thing is a serious problem. It’s a valid and worrying concern, though it has little to do with climate change. No idea how we’ll ‘solve’ that one…but I’m fairly sure we WILL solve it. Eventually.

Well, unless the whole world goes tits up in 20 years. In which case I’m going to party like it’s 2030…


Considering that some will likely end up underwater and the whole population turned into refugees, yes. And then there’s the likely famines and so forth.

The OP said “If James Lovelock is correct…” to start the post. What follows is pretty much exactly what James Lovelock believes. Good thing James Lovelock is a fruitcake.

Gah! I HATE fruitcake…


But if world temperatures skyrocket and First World population dies off, where will you get your fruitcake then? Huh? Huh?!

We will simply declare war on Canada, who will become the new fruit cake export capital of the world…


About time, I say. Give the Canuck a jolly good smashing, the fruitcake hoarding bastards.

I’m an AGW believer but I’ve never heard of Lovelock before. He sounds a bit over the top for me.

Yeah, I want to know why all these doomsday scenarios mention the desertification of current cropland, but never seem to mention what happens to previously too-cold areas. Look, the world isn’t a universal climate, with perfect growing conditions. It’s a gradient. So if everything gets warmer… hello Hollywood North!

If life was that fragile, it wouldn’t have lasted as long as it has.

I’ve never seen that high estimate from a credible source. How is that even possible? CO2 is around 390 ppm right now and going up something like 2ppm a year. But it used to be waaaaay higher in the past.

One likely problem is that methane deposits in permafrost and the sea will evaporate, creating a flood of greenhouse gases and a major spike in the temperature. Judging from the geological evidence, it’s perfectly possible for major changes in the climate to happen in years, not decades or centuries.

The problem is, while “the end of life” period is highly unlikely; the “end of life as we know it”, as in the end of civilization is quite possible. We are headed into a climatic regime that has not existed as long as humans have existed. If it turns out that agriculture is unsustainable under such conditions - which could happen it the weather is harsh or variable enough - then civilization will collapse.

How likely is that? No one knows; we are playing dice with our civilization without even knowing the stakes.

To echo another poster above, I can’t think of a time in history when it hasn’t been so.

“God does not play dice with the universe; He plays an ineffable game of His own devising, which might be compared, from the perspective of the players, (ie everybody), to being involved in an obscure and complex version of poker in a pitch-dark room, with blank cards, for infinite stakes, with a Dealer who won’t tell you the rules, and who smiles all the time.”

–Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett

Not to this degree. We have NEVER been in this situation before. Not just us, personally; our species hasn’t.

Over the top is right; the sources I like to look for, when the subject of global warming comes up, are not in agreement with him.

Oh, now come on…

Thats like saying everything dies and no shit will grow.

Even sci fi level worst case, humans and the basics of civilization will survive IMO.