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60-Second Earth

Trouble and Toil Has Not Slowed the Boil

As climate change negotiations drag on, greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, fulfilling scientists' predictions. David Biello reports

The recent American Geophysical Union's annual meeting featured a talk that presented computer simulations of planetary futures if human activity continued on its present course. Such meetings are generally staid affairs. But the findings motivated this scientist to title his presentation "Is Earth F**ked?"

Meanwhile, halfway around the globe in Doha, climate change negotiators continued to fiddle with treaty text as the planet gradually burns. While the negotiators may save the Kyoto Protocol to combat climate change as a stopgap until a new international treaty is negotiated in 2015, none of it is likely to be anywhere near enough.

Emissions continue to rise ever faster, making it unlikely that average temperature increases will fall below 2 degrees Celsius, the avowed target. Instead, the world is on course for at least 4 degrees C of warming [pdf]. Already, with slightly less than 1 degree C of warming, places like the Arctic have become unrecognizable.

In other words, the predictions that scientists made way back in 1990 have been spot on as far as temperature changes go. [David J. Frame and Dáithí A. Stone, Assessment of the first consensus prediction on climate change] Let's hope the present failure to take action against climate change doesn't make today's dire predictions hopelessly optimistic.

—David Biello

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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