Climate research reveals what Earth would look like 2C warmer

2 Jan 2018

Image: Wendy Townrow/Shutterstock

A new study shows that with an increase of just 2C in Earth’s average temperature, disaster would ensue for millions.

It might seem like a relatively small number when measured against the sliding temperature scale experienced at a local level, but a 2C increase in the average global temperature could prove catastrophic.

That’s according to a new study published by a team of international researchers, which has predicted that huge swathes of Earth could become immensely drier than they are now.

Published in Nature Climate Change, the findings came after the team studied projections from 27 global climate models to identify the areas of the world where aridity (measurement of dryness) will substantially change, compared to the year-to-year variations they experience now.

Understandably, aridification would significantly damage the ability of land to support agriculture, while also impacting its water quality and biodiversity.

By the team’s estimates, between 20pc and 30pc of the Earth’s surface would become arid as a result of a 2C temperature increase, affecting as much as 20pc of the world’s population.

This would include the 15pc of land currently deemed semi-arid, but which would become fully arid as a result of the temperature increase.

Small change makes all the difference

While those in the US would be familiar with the ongoing drought conditions in California, drought severity has been increasing across the Mediterranean, southern Africa and the eastern coast of Australia over the course of the 20th century.

Semi-arid areas of Mexico, Brazil, southern Africa and Australia have also experienced desertification for some time as the world has warmed.

However, the team added that by reducing this temperature rise by half a degree to 1.5C, two-thirds of the affected regions could avoid significant aridification.

“The world has already warmed by 1C, but by reducing greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere in order to keep global warming under 1.5C or 2C, [this] could reduce the likelihood of significant aridification emerging in many parts of the world,” said Dr Su-Jong Jeong from the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, China.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic