The Clock Is Ticking: Changing for
the Benefit of Future Generations
This chapter looks at the future and how several leading scientists expect
the world to change under the inuence of increased climate change. It then
looks at the predicted winners and losers in the future as the earth continues
to heat up. In conclusion, it looks at what new technology is on the horizon
to help manage for a better tomorrow.
Almost daily there is a news report reecting a climate change issue:
drought, oods, wildres, hurricanes, heat waves, melting glaciers, polar
bears starving, and multiple species of wildlife being threatened with
extinction. Although it is not possible to forecast exactly when, where,
and how severe warming’s impacts will be, there is enough evidence
available today to understand that many of the impacts from climate
change will be severe and will result in disasters with enormous eco-
nomic and human costs.
Each day corrective action is delayed puts life on earth at greater risk.
What is important to realize is the climate system’s inertia. Because it
responds slowly, positive action taken today will not be realized for decades
to come. In addition, the longer the delay, the greater the risks become and
the more difcult it will be to respond effectively. Even worse, if the delay
becomes too long, it may never be possible to stabilize the climate at a safe
level for life to exist as it presently does. Tipping points become a seri-
ous issue—when the system tips or shifts into an entirely new state, such
as the major collapse of ice sheets causing rapid sea-level rise or massive
thawing of permafrost releasing huge amounts of stored methane into the
404 Climate Management Issues
Unfortunately, climate change has progressed enough that no amount of
cutting back on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions will allow some ecosys-
tems to return to the way they once were. If emissions are cut back now on an
aggressive basis, scientists at National Aeronautics and Space Administration
(NASA) believe it is still possible to avoid the worst consequences of climate
change. Unlike the targeted 5 percent outlined in the Kyoto Protocol, the
European Union has said that it will actually require a reduction of 6080
percent to prevent dangerous climate change (Hare, 2008).
On the positive side, scientists do understand what the world is up against
and are trying to educate the public to make the right choices, and the pub-
lic does seem to be responding (although slowly) to the green movement.
Solving the problem will take the concerted effort of everyone. There will
have to be change in the future design of buildings, transportation, energy
systems, leadership, innovation, and investments from governments and
businesses. Both public and individual commitments are critical in order to
achieve success.
A Look toward the Future
Based on several emission scenarios run by the Intergovernmental Panel
on Climate Change (IPCC) and NASA, global temperature is projected to
increase by approximately 0.2°C per decade for the next two decades. Even if
GHGs were kept steady at 2000 levels, because of the inertia of the oceans—
the long time it takes them to store and release heat—there is already a sug-
gested warming in the pipeline of 0.1°C per decade.
If GHG emissions continue at the current rate, or become even greater, cli-
mate models suggest that changes in the global climate system during this
century will be even larger than those that were observed during the twenti-
eth century. Another critical factor, as mentioned previously, is the warmer it
gets, the less CO
the land and ocean are physically able to store. This means
that any increasing concentrations in CO
will remain in the atmosphere.
At this point, the IPCC projects that from now to 2090, the global average
surface air warming will most likely range from 1.1 to 6.4°C. The ranges are
attributed to the differences in the models and energy-use scenarios used.
Global average sea level is projected to rise by 18 to 59 centimeters by
2099. Scientists caution, however, that models do not include uncertainties
about some climate mechanisms because there is still a lack of knowledge.
For example, one of the key uncertainties is ice ow from Greenland and
Antarctica. There are still mechanisms that control the ow and dynamics
of the ice that scientists are trying to understand. If the speed of future ice

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