Future Shock: A View of the Earth's Changing Climate

Brace yourself for a sobering glimpse of the future.

On Friday, a distinguished group of world scientists will release a comprehensive report on how climate change will alter our planet during the next century.

A preview of the 1,600+ page report just appeared in the New York Times. Much of it describes evidence that global warming will "cause a profound transformation of the planet."

Prepared by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the report makes it clear that humans -- and the carbon emissions that we create -- are the reason for the rising temperatures.

But some of their predictions are much more frightening than most of us might have imagined. For example, they envision the following:

  • Later this century, the Arctic Ocean might be completely devoid of sea ice.
  • The snowy European Alps will melt and become a summer haven for people seeking relief from the unbearable heat on the Mediterranean coasts.
  • Drought will ravage semi-arid regions in Africa and southern Asia, while temperate regions will see longer growing seasons.

Of course, the accuracy of their scientific models are sure to be subject to debate. Some scientists say that the time span of climate change is impossible to assess. Others noted that the data used for these models failed to factor in the rapidly shrinking ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland.

I don't know about you, but when I hear such dire predictions, my tendency is to downplay them. I figure that such nightmare scenarios are based on hype, rather than facts.

Unfortunately, it seems that a lot of very credible scientists are about to tell us that the facts might be worse than our worst case scenarios.

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