Scientists Revise Predicted Warming Range to Between 2.6 and 4.1 Degrees Celsius
Earth's temperature is already about 1.2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. Neil Nissing / The Image Bank / Getty Images Plus
Just how hot the earth will get if carbon dioxide doubles from pre-industrial times is a question scientists have wondered about for the past 40 years.
They have generally agreed that the planet will warm 1.5 to 4.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times. Now, a major new study has narrowed that range, revealing we are unlikely to keep global heating below 1.5-degrees Celsius without immediate and dramatic reductions in emissions. They have tightened their range to between 2.6 and 4.1 degrees Celsius, or 4.1 to 8.1 degrees Fahrenheit, according to Science Magazine.
The comprehensive international study released Wednesday and published in Reviews of Geophysics relies on three strands of evidence: trends indicated by contemporary warming, the latest understanding of the feedback effects that can slow or accelerate climate change, and lessons from ancient climates, as Science Magazine reported.
The researchers determined that there was less than a 5 percent chance of a temperature shift below two degrees, and a 6 to 18 percent chance of a higher temperature change than 4.5 degrees Celsius, or 8.1 degrees Fahrenheit, according to The New York Times. The scientists pointed out that the earth's temperature is already about 1.2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, and that, if current emissions trends continue, the doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide could happen well before the end of this century.
The paper was a collaboration of 25 scientists around the world. The lead author, Steven Sherwood, a climate scientist at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia said that the group's research suggested that these temperature shifts are now unlikely below the low end of the range, according to The New York Times. There is a bright spot, though. The research also suggests that the "alarmingly high sensitivities" of 5 degrees Celsius or higher are extremely unlikely, though they are "not impossible," Sherwood said.
If global heating reaches the midpoint of this new range, it would be extremely damaging, said Kate Marvel, a physicist at NASA's Goddard Institute of Space Studies and Columbia University, who called it the equivalent of a "five-alarm fire" for the planet, as The Washington Post reported.
"The main message is that unfortunately we can't expect that luck will save us from climate change," Reto Knutti, professor of climate physics at ETH Zurich's Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, as The Guardian reported.
"The good thing is that we've somewhat narrowed the range of future long-term warming, the bad thing is that we can no longer hope or claim that the problem will just magically go away."
These scientists now say it is likely that human activities — such as burning oil, gas and coal along with deforestation — will push carbon dioxide to dangerous levels that will usher in catastrophic consequences. They say there needs to be a concerted effort to drastically reduce emissions immediately, as The Washington Post reported. Staying below that level is still possible. If steep emissions cuts are made in the near-term, a doubling of carbon dioxide levels could be avoided.
The study of climate sensitivity is to be used by the United Nations's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change when it publishes its next major report in 2021 or 2022. As Science Magazine reported, the estimate will also inform projections for sea-level rise, economic damage and much else. A clearer picture of those consequences could do a lot to force local governments to cut emissions and adapt to warming, said Diana Reckien, a climate planning expert at the University of Twente. "The decreasing uncertainty could potentially motivate more jurisdictions to act," she said.
Andrew Dessler, a climate scientist at Texas A&M University who was not involved in the study, called this "a tour de force of climate science." He said via email to The Washington Post that the study "really, really kills the skeptical argument that climate sensitivity is low."
"It would have been great if the skeptics had been correct and climate sensitivity was, say, 1.5°C, but that's not the world we live in."
Correction: A previous version of this article said that we are past any hope of keeping global heating below 1.5-degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times. It has been updated for accuracy to say we are unlikely to keep heating below that threshold.
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For centuries, the delicate silver dove has been a symbol of love and fidelity.
Biodiversity and Habitat Loss<p>Their near extinction is a symbol of the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/global-biodiversity-outlook-targets-extinction-summit-new-york-pledge/a-54932895" target="_blank">biodiversity crisis</a> in the UK, largely driven by habitat destruction. Britain is now one of the countries with the most <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/future-of-UK-nature#:~:text=The%20UK%20is%20one%20of,than%20half%20are%20in%20decline" target="_blank">depleted nature</a> in the world according to the World Wildlife Fund. Half its plant and animal species are in decline and more than <a href="https://www.rspb.org.uk/about-the-rspb/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/let-nature-sing-wales/#:~:text=a%20natural%20tragedy.-,Over%2040%20million%20birds%20have%20vanished%20from%20UK%20skies%20in,unaware%20of%20the%20impending%20danger" target="_blank">40 million birds</a> have vanished in just half a century.</p><p>"[Turtle doves] are the canary in the [coal] mine because there are all these other species before it and after it," said Tree. "It's an umbrella for all the other species that are heading that way."</p><p>Turtle doves migrate south through Europe to sub-Saharan Africa between July and September, ending up in dry woodland and farmland areas of countries like Mali and Senegal for winter. </p><p>Droughts in West Africa and the Sahel region are believed to have contributed to the fall in turtle dove species recorded in northern Europe, with low rainfall reducing supplies of the seeds and insects the birds rely on for energy for the long journey home.</p>
Conservation and Farming<p><a href="https://www.operationturtledove.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Operation Turtle Dove,</a> a partnership project of charities including the Essex Wildlife trust, works with landowners and farmers to actively build turtle dove habitat.</p><p>Outten works with <a href="https://www.ebws.org.uk/birdsites/blue-house-farm-ewt-north-fambridge" target="_blank">Blue House Farm</a>, a 660-acre nature reserve in the UK county of Essex, where they have replicated weedy fallow plots. </p><p>"We work on it every year to make sure it's in the condition it needs to be with plants such as clovers and black medic," Outten said. "These plants are native to the landscape and produce the seed the birds feed on." </p><p>The birds eat a wide range of seeds from various plants that would have been abundant 50 or 100 years ago, added Guy Anderson, program manager for species recovery with The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). </p><p>"But it's simply true that with the gradual process of <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/farming-without-pesticides-how-can-we-make-agriculture-greener/a-52216796" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">intensifying our agricultural production</a>, the availability of those seeds has dropped and dropped," said Anderson.</p><p>Part of the project includes supplementary feeding — providing sources of food in the form of seed or grain. Under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme in England, farmers can receive financial support to create a turtle dove habitat. </p><p>Though they haven't recorded an increase in doves across the sites in the four years of working on the project, Outten said they are seeing improvements in how landowners and farmers manage habitat for the birds. </p>
A Turtle Dove Haven<p>The 3,500-acre Knepp Estate in West Sussex is another project taking a different approach and one of the few places where turtle dove numbers are increasing.</p><p>Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell converted their intensively farmed land into a rewilding project almost 20 years ago. They have let the land return to nature.</p><p>Just one year after they'd finished <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/uks-most-talented-architects-are-not-human/a-35952128" target="_blank">rewilding</a> the southern part of their property, they heard turtle doves for the first time. It's now a breeding hotspot for the birds with an estimated 19 pairs. Knepp is also home to <a href="https://www.rewildingbritain.org.uk/rewilding/rewilding-projects/knepp-estate" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2% of the UK's population</a> of nightingales. </p><p>Tree is critical of supplementary feeding schemes that, in her view, are short term. She questions the chances of turtle doves getting to feed on scattered seeds before other mammals eat them first.</p>
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