Two Degrees: The Fever

Somewhere, deep down inside, we all know the climate is a global and not a national crisis.  One country cannot control its carbon emissions, protecting “its own” atmosphere, while another country does not.  We are all in this together.  That is why we hold international conferences every few years in places like Rio de Janeiro, Copenhagen, and Kyoto to develop worldwide strategies to avoid climate disaster. 

These conferences have accomplished next to nothing in the way of workable solutions, but one thing has come out of them: The Two-Degree Limit.  A consensus has developed among scientists, activists, and governments all over the world that we cannot let average global temperatures rise more than two degrees Celsius without risking a runaway climate catastrophe.  Hotter than two-degrees and the planet is likely to spiral out of control, growing hotter and hotter on its own.  At the rate things are going now, we will climb up over the two-degree threshold some time around the year 2030.  That’s not so far off.

Two degrees Celsius doesn’t sound like much.  It’s only 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit.  That’s the difference between 100 degrees on a hot summer afternoon and 103.6 degrees.  You might not feel the difference.  But that much difference worldwide, on a year round basis, would make an enormous difference to forests, oceans, glaciers, wildlife, and agriculture.  The Earth would “feel” like it had a fever – a serious fever.  Two degrees Celsius hotter than now worldwide is the difference between a 100-degree fever and 103.6-degree fever.  You would feel that difference.

The world does not have a plan to face up to global climate change.  We have not yet found our common humanity.  But at least we know we all have the same fever and that it is getting worse.  And we know where the danger point lies.

So, what happens above the two-degree limit?…  I’ll get to that next week.

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