The Earth is toast, per new UN report on climate change

Climate change will have devastating effects on the planet and humanity. So concludes an international team of experts in a report released by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. (Read the summary for policymakers below, or browse the full report online.)

The report is part two of a one-two punch. The first punch came last fall when IPCC found that the scientific evidence for climate change is overwhelming and almost certainly caused by humans.

Part II takes a close look at what the world can expect as temperatures rise globally. The scientists found not just a grim future, but also a grim present. Climate change is already affecting the world, and it only will get worse.

Both natural and human systems are vulnerable. Many of the coming problems will harm the world’s poorest people the most, but challenges will not be isolated to those communities. Indeed, local problems will have widespread repercussions on food supplies and in dealing with climate refugees.

climate-change-surfRising sea levels will displace millions of people. Drought will affect communities around the globe. Other places will see increased rainfall that causes floods and mudslides. Severe weather incidents like major hurricanes will strike more frequently. Formerly bountiful agricultural areas will produce less or nothing. Species will move or go extinct. And so on.

In America and the rest of North America, wildfires will increase in frequency and intensity, more people among vulnerable populations will die from heat-related causes, and rising sea levels and extreme weather will cause flooding in coastal areas.

Humanity no longer has the luxury of preventing the problems. Now it must prepare to deal with them.

The report contains some faint optimism. If the world acts quickly to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it might mitigate some of the worst consequences. At least it might postpone them so that we have more time to prepare.

At this point, it is hard to do more than appreciate such quaint hope. The world has known that these problems were coming for more than a decade, but we have done nothing. Carbon emissions continue to increase.

America and the world do not confront climate change because it is hard. When one of America’s major political parties does not even acknowledge that the problem is real, despite the scientific consensus, what hope is there for international compromise and national action?

I suspect there’s even some unspoken schadenfreude at work. When New York and San Francisco flood, it will be divine retribution washing clean bastions of sinful urban liberalism. “Real Americans” will be safe from rising seas (well, other than Alaskans and most of the South — they’re toast too). Meanwhile, their crops turn to dust and wildfires tear through their communities as they lose their coastlines.

Phil Plait at Slate reminds us that midterm elections are this fall. “Does your representative have his head in the sand? You can do something about it.” (Emphasis his.)

Good luck with that. Gerrymandered congressional districts and a Republican Party whose success depends on keeping its base divorced from reality all but guarantees that America will keep its head in the sand.

Here’s the report, and below that is a video accompanying the report:

Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability (Summary for Policymakers) by christian_trejbal

Christian Trejbal is a freelance editorial writer, editor and political consultant based in Portland, Ore. He wrote exclusively for The (Bend) Bulletin and The Roanoke Times before founding Opinion in a Pinch. He serves on the board of directors of the Association of Opinion Journalists Foundation and is open government chairman. Follow him on Twitter @ctrejbal and facebook.

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51 Responses to “The Earth is toast, per new UN report on climate change”

  1. Gindy51 says:

    The World Without Us by Alan Weisman, great read.
    I have personally watched a forest take over a fallow corn field in a little over 15 years on my own land. On other abandoned farms, the buildings fall fast once no one is there to keep them up and animals and insects move in to devour them. Metal takes longer, but it too is destroyed by rust and decay.

  2. HelenRainier says:

    Me, too, Milli. Back in the 60s, when I was immersed in the “nippie” life style, I made the decision not have children due to concerns about population growth. Glad I did.

  3. ComradeRutherford says:

    The Greatest Generation put their sentiments on bumper stickers on their Greyhound bus-sized RVs: I am spending my children’s inheritance.

    The message was loud and clear: To literal hell with my own family. The Greatest Generation and their offspring, the Boomers, have made sure that they got everything and left nothing left for their own posterity. I’ve got mine, my kids and fuck off and die for all I care. That is the creed of the Conservative American.

  4. cminca says:

    Sorry–but when you crap in your water long enough, you’re bound to get poisoned.

  5. Bill_Perdue says:


  6. Silver_Witch says:

    As least we both think – that is a start eh?

  7. Bill_Perdue says:

    The core of socialist thinking is democracy – political and economic.

    I’m sorry you’re so disillusioned and pessimistic. I think it’s unwarranted and not based on reality.

  8. Silver_Witch says:

    Ahhh I see. And who would act as the “director” of this Workers State? And how would you establish such a reality. I think I am totally with you on working to overcome the poverty, unemployment, underemployment, homelessness and medical care.

    However, as a former believer I have to say that in 50 years I have seen no progress whatsoever in the “revolution” you so clearly hope for…and in fact have seen only those who “lead” the movement that would be as cruel to the people as those in power now.

    Color me disillusioned….and much more Zen than my youth found me.

  9. Bill_Perdue says:

    Stalin’s coming to power had absolutely nothing to do with mobs and everything to do with a Soviet bureaucracy and police apparatus that grew in response to problems caused by the invasions of the US, Japan, France and England and food shortages that were a result of WW1. Stalin was not a mob ruler, he was a bureaucratic dictator whose political descendants destroyed the USSR.

    Voting is scam in a banana republic. The ‘meanest’ are in power now, we call them the looter class or the ruling class. Massive levels of poverty, unemployment, underemployment, homelessness, malnutrition and the lack of socialized medicine are all crimes committed by the rich and their political prostitutes in the WH, the courts and Congress. They enable the criminality of the rich.

    We need a workers state to put an end to these crimes, confiscate the stolen wealth of the rich and punish their crimes. Nothing less will do.

  10. Silver_Witch says:

    Sorry Bill…you are probably right.

    And I think you made my point about mob rule versus revolution. Sadly, often in a revolution the worse part of society can act out (mob rule) and give power to people like Stalin who then ruin the good that was hoped for.

    I will stand with my belief of persistent resistance, voting for the best candidate and hoping to change the world one person at a time, rather than revolution where the meanest often win.

  11. Bill_Perdue says:

    Cuban workers and small farmers are absolutely better off because of their revolution. The largest part of their problems stems from the US embargo.

    Bolshevism is the antithesis of Stalinism. Stalinist betrayed and eventually destroyed the Russian revolution.

    You statement that “People will generally act against their own best interest” confirms your unwarranted pessimism and your attempt to compare revolutions with ‘mob rule’ is totally inaccurate.

  12. Indigo says:

    Pull up your socks and keep on truckin’

  13. Silver_Witch says:

    I think your two examples are also examples of failure. Really you think the workers in Cuba created a better world for the workers? And the Bolsheviks became a country ruled by Stalin – that killed thousands of people in that country.

    Yes when things get bad enough then a group of people who are strong enough can take over – the question is which group Tea Party or Leftists, and what does the resulting country look like.

    I don’t believe I am a pessimist – just a realist. People will generally act against their own best interest and mob rule rarely works out well for the poor.

  14. 4th Turning says:

    German (among the lucky ancestors who escaped conscription in frederick the flutist’s-and not the good kind!-military and various cousins.

  15. 4th Turning says:

    Exactly what are some of the others besides a break in case of emergency
    cyanide tablet wall fixture.

  16. noGOP says:

    and then say “oops, my bad.”

  17. Indigo says:

    Irish-German-Algonquin. You?

  18. milli2 says:

    This is why I’m glad I didn’t have children.

  19. HeartlandLiberal says:

    That will be happening soon, along with GOP starting to stop using the phrase ‘Obamacare’, and instead switching to calling the Affordable Health Care Act. Now that it is clearly working, and the American People understand and like it, they can no longer run on a platform of taking people’s health insurance away. This semantic shift already got underway on the Sunday talking head shows, the other on climate change should be coming along soon. But it won’t be just the gays. They will viciously denounce the left and professors in academia for not telling them the truth sooner, and demand they be punished for malfeasance. Really, this is exactly what will happen over next couple of years.

  20. dula says:

    Can we also agree that the EU economic deal rejected by Ukraine’s ousted leader was a reasonable thing to reject?… now that the numbers are coming in:
    “To summarize, the IMF deal of March 27 calls for paying western banks and lenders $6.5 billion over the next two years in debt servicing payments. It additionally requires the reduction of household gas subsidies by another $13 billion plus the total phase out of gas subsidies. And it indirectly calls for the Ukrainian government to cut spending by at least $8 billion (2.5% of GDP) over the next two years—in the form of cuts in government jobs, wage cuts for government workers, and pension payment reductions of a likely 50% for retirees in general.
    Add all that up, and not surprisingly it’s around $27 billion. That’s $27 billion of economic spending and stimulus taken out of the Ukrainian real economy per the IMF deal. In other words, just about the $27 billion that the IMF purportedly will provide to the GDP per the March 27 announcement. Which means Ukrainian households will pay for the IMF’s $27 billion package with higher gas prices, elimination of gas subsidies, government job and wage cuts, and big pension payment reductions.
    But $27 billion is not really an ‘even trade off’. It’s really a net negative stimulus for Ukraine due to the composition of the IMF deal. Keep in mind, the $6.2 billion in debt servicing payments outflow to the west will have absolutely no positive impact on Ukraine’s GDP. So, first of all, it’s really only the IMF net $21 billion ‘’in” vs. the Ukrainian $27 billion taken “out” of the economy per IMF requirements. But even $21 billion ‘in’ vs. $27 billion ‘out’ is not the true net estimate.
    The $27 billion taken out reflects a household consumer spending ‘multiplier effect’ that is much larger than the $21 billion net domestic Ukraine injection by the IMF. If one assumes a conservative 1.5 multiplier effect, the amount taken out of the Ukrainian economy is more like $40 billion over the next two years—a massive sum given that the Ukraine’s GDP in 2012 was no more than $175 and was flat to stagnant in 2013. Of course, the $40 billion ‘out’ is adjusted by the $21 billion ‘in’ and its multiplier effect. But while the $40 billion ‘out’ will definitely occur, there is no guarantee the full $21 billion IMF injection “in” will actually happen in turn.
    Some of that $21 billion will no doubt be ‘put aside’ by the Ukrainian central bank to replenish its foreign currency reserves, today at around only $10 billion or less. Some of it will be used to assist Ukrainian businesses to purchase European imports of intermediate goods, projected to rise in cost significantly as Ukraine’s currency continues to decline. And some of it will go to loans from the NBU to Ukrainian businesses that will hoard the cash and not use it to expand production. All this means that probably no more than half the $21 billion IMF net injection will actually affect the real Ukrainian economy. Given these ‘leakages’, the multiplier effects of the IMF injections will no doubt prove to be negative. It is not unreasonable to assume no more than a net $10 billion of the IMF’s $21 billion will get into the Ukraine’s real economy as a stimulus.
    That leaves no more than a $10 billion net stimulus over the next two years, offset by a ‘multiplier’ of $40 billion reduction in the real economy over the next two years. A net reduction in Ukraine’s GDP of $30 billion in the next two years, or about $15 billion a year, represents a cumulative decline in GDP of at least 18%. And that’s a Greece-like Depression.
    By absorbing the Ukrainian economy into the Eurozone, the latter is in effect taking under its economic wing yet another ‘Greece’ and ‘Spain’. And as in the case of those latter economies, those who will pay will not be the bankers and multinational businessmen, but the Ukrainian people. But that is the essential and repeated history and legacy of IMF deals globally for the last three decades.”
    Perhaps the Russian deal would have had a better economic effect on the ordinary Ukrainian?

  21. Bill_Perdue says:

    I think your pessimism is unfounded and doesn’t take into account the precedents of history. People do take a while to change and when conditions get bad enough they can change very quickly. In 1917 the Bolsheviks were a tiny minority party but by the end of the year they represented tens of millions and founded a socialist republic. In 1958 Castro led a tiny guerrilla group in the Sierra Madre and on New Years day in 1959 he and the Fidelistas, by then a huge movement that included city workers, farmers and sharecroppers and most of the youth of the country were in Havana celebrating their victory over the US and it’s puppet, Batista.

    The question of success or failure is dependent on two things – a crisis that can’t be solved by the rulers and the determined leadership of the left. If those are present, and they are here, then when things get bad enough the left will be more than strong enough to provide a solution.

  22. mirror says:

    This we can totally agree on!

  23. eggroll_jr says:

    I’m optimistic for the first time in a long time.

  24. dula says:

    They’re already chomping at the bit to step up US fracking in order to supply the EU with the energy lost from Russian sources…disaster capitalism at its finest. A neocon’s wet dream is another cold war that will heat up the environment.

  25. Silver_Witch says:

    Or when reality becomes so real you can no longer deny it…close your eyes…see if that works.

  26. Silver_Witch says:

    I think Bill, that it is too late to fix that which is so broken. Your suggestion is valid, not workable though. There is no labor party to be had in this country. We have all been feed a diet of propaganda to obtain the american dream. To become one of the 1% is programmed so strongly that most people will even vote against their best interest because they hope to achieve that which the 1% have. A labor party would take 50 years minimum to achieve and we do not have 50 years.

  27. Silver_Witch says:

    Wonderful series really. Thanks for reminding me of the name.

  28. Silver_Witch says:

    I agree Indigo…if like this article says it is to late, then give us a direction to head. Learn to eat off the land, in the city or find alternative living space. I guess step one is to move away from the coast.

  29. Indigo says:

    That’s one option, possibly the most popular one currently among the public.

  30. cole3244 says:

    the scientists have been telling us the facts for years now and imo its too late to stop the inevitable and our death warrant has been signed and is on its way.

    as a species we humans are going to get everyting we deserve its just too bad so many innocent species have to suffer and go with us.

    humans are too greedy and ignorant to be allowed to continue our reign of terror here on earth.

  31. 4th Turning says:

    Didn’t they buy up all the patents for ceramic engines running on water?

  32. 4th Turning says:

    Of russian descent?

  33. 4th Turning says:

    Whatever happened with that Pompeii movie?
    There are some great 3d special effects in the trailer.
    I say “chill” with a tub of buttered popcorn and 2 liter soda
    and enjoy.

  34. Indigo says:

    They’ll run out of gas in short order because they don’t know how to maintain the wells and processing plants.

  35. Bill_Perdue says:

    The new ruling class

  36. Indigo says:

    Onward! Into the ruins!

  37. 4th Turning says:

    (Okay staff be forewarned. I’ve got an algorithm running on my govt. surplus mainframe in the basement that will identify any of you who ever flunked out of divinity school no matter how many millions you’ve spent on a cover-up!)

    I believe a host of competent messengers has now delivered the bleak news.
    I also believe there are a number of us here ready to spare their lives but would take some comfort from the doc, in collaboration with any others, explaining in laypeople’s terms the latest neuroscience research what makes it next to impossible for seemingly rational human beings to act in their own best self-interest. And otherwise run toward the flames rather than away. Our problems are hard-wired in
    the brain. Scathing indictments of deniers is going nowhere real fast. A bunch of us have seen this
    mess coming for a long time living fairly responsibly, identifying others of like mind, taking action
    where we could and using this baffling knowledge of inaction to sketch out survival strategies.
    I’m more than a little skeptical of grand 11th hour schemes proposing to snatch our fat out of
    the fire but willing to listen.

  38. Indigo says:

    I’ve brought up my concern repeatedly, What kind of survival skills and knowledge do we need? and the ceremonial answer so far has been a merely ideological call to stop consumption of xyz immediately! That is not the answer. It’s too late as this report reminds us.The answer is to learn to live in a post-industrial waste land. The Maya abandoned their cities for a reason, whatever it was, and returned to the scrub. We’ll do something like that somehow inside the horizon of our new reality, a ruined environment with a predatory oligarchy.

  39. pvequalkt says:

    Before the deniers take over…

    Climate change is here for the long haul. At 350ppm of CO2, the process became resonant. Even if we stopped ALL burning now, temps would still rise and CO2 would still increase for a century at least. All we can do now (past 400ppm of C02 already) is act and HOPE it makes the temp rise slow down so we have time to maybe come up with something.
    But THAT cannot possibly happen:

    “Does your representative have his head in the sand? You can do something about it.”

    Well, not bloody likely. If you R or D rep has melon in sphincter, what alternative candidate do you have? If the other one is R or D, you have none. If you have a Green or Socialist or Justice candidate, you can and should vote that-a-way. But know that it will be only a protest vote since americans will never elect someone except an R or D who has been thoroughly vetted by the money.
    As oceans acidify, already stressed to near collapse fisheries shall collapse. Then billions of humans’ protein source goes poof. Already Asian glaciers are disappearing such that 2B humans’ potable water supply will be gone in 20 years.
    Here is a sobering fact: Atmospheric CO2 is higher now than at any time in the past 3M years… when the seas were HUNDREDS of feet higher than they are today.
    If seas rise even 30 feet, florida becomes beach; Wall street becomes beachfront and SF becomes Venice. And we’re on our way to having a Sonoran desert stretch from Arkansas to Belize to Oregon. Subtract all the food that California grows from our supermarkets and what do you have? A whole lotta empty store shelves.

  40. Bill_Perdue says:

    Denial of climate change is as surreal and irrelevant as creationism and the belief that the US government is a benign influence in the world.

  41. Bill_Perdue says:

    I read the report from the IPCC last night and it confirms what everyone else is saying, and that’s tragic news for the millions who will be displaced or die as global agriculture takes a huge hit. And equally tragic for many species hanging on by a thread who’ll be lost forever as the climate gets ugly.

    The owners of the American economy are to blame. Per capita emissions here are highest for any major country except Australia, – 17.2% in 2010. (Some oil producing countries are higher but that’s related to oil production, not industrial and personal use.)

    Attempts to solve this problem – from building sea dikes along every major coastal city to cutting CO 2 emissions – are first and foremost a political question. In the US the first order of business is for labor and the labor left to build large labor and socialist parties whose program would severely limit the emission problem by severely limiting the role of the rich in causing emissions. We have to nationalize the energy industry under the control of workers and consumers and embark on a massive, multi trillion dollar program to green industry, agriculture and transportation and confiscate the wealth of the rich to pay for it.

    Nothing else will work.

  42. But “Noah” was real.

  43. PeteWa says:

    I wish you were a decade or three younger, so you could fully enjoy the future.

  44. Dave of the Jungle says:

    When many are denying reality, just act like reality doesn’t exist. Sure that will make reality go away.

  45. pogden297 says:

    When no one is believing your scare tactics disguised as “science,” just yell even louder. Sure that will work.

  46. usagi says:

    Life After People. Only two seasons (09-10–seems more recent). The short version: water gets in, everything falls apart. In the really long scope episodes, the sun expands and consumes the planet.

  47. markofthebeasts says:

    I wonder how quickly the republicans will switch from denying that it’s occurring to blaming it on gay people.

  48. Silver_Witch says:

    I am not really sure what the point of all these climate change articles are. We, who read these blogs, have little authority or power over the change that will need to take place to even slightly mitigate the effects. The powerful and the rich forget that they too are mortal and that they too will suffer the consequences of our use of resources.

    What can one do, beside walk to work (I do), don’t drink from plastic bottles (I don’t), don’t live in a place where you need energy to moderate your climate (I try). Do you think a big phone campaign of us all dialing our Senators and the President will change anything. No…I think this exactly the plan – somehow the 1% think that climate change will only hurt the “others”……we shall all have to see how it plays out.

  49. Silver_Witch says:

    Actually there is a great show on History, I believe, seems she will recover much more quickly than we humans can even imagine.

  50. TonyT says:

    The earth will be fine, as soon as she shed’s herself of us nasty parasites. If my take thousands of years to recover but she will. With or without us.

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