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It's the end of the world as we know it

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'Unrecognisable planet' by 2100

Global temperatures could increase by up to six degrees by the end of the century as worldwide carbon emissions continue to grow.

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THE world is on track to see "an unrecognisable planet" that is between 4 and 6 degrees hotter by the end of this century, according to new data on greenhouse gas emissions.

As United Nations climate negotiations enter their second week in Doha, Qatar, an Australian-based international research effort that tracks greenhouse gas output will release its annual findings on Monday, showing emissions climbing too quickly to stave off the effects of dangerous climate change.

The new forecast does not include recent revelations about the effects of thawing permafrost, which is starting to release large amounts of methane from the Arctic. This process makes cutting human emissions of fossil fuels even more urgent, scientists say.

"Unrecognisable" ... the planet may get up to 6 degrees warmer by the end of the century.

"Unrecognisable" ... the planet may get up to 6 degrees warmer by the end of the century. Photo: Paul Jones

The new data from the Global Carbon Project found greenhouse gas emissions are expected to have risen 2.6 per cent by the end of this year, on top of a 3 per cent rise in 2011. Since 1990, the reference year for the Kyoto Protocol, emissions have increased 54 per cent.

It means that the goal of the Doha talks – to hold global temperature rise to 2 degrees – is almost out of reach. That goal requires that emissions peak now and start falling significantly within eight years.

"Unless we change current emissions trends, this year is set to reach 36 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide from the combustion of fossil fuels, we are on the way to an unrecognisable planet of 4 to 6 degrees warmer by the end of this century," said the executive director of the Global Carbon Project, Dr Pep Canadell.

The big thaw ... Melting Arctic permafrost.

The big thaw ... Melting Arctic permafrost. Photo: Supplied

"Unless the negotiators in Doha wake up tomorrow and embrace a new green industrial revolution to rapidly change our energy systems, chances to stay below global warming of 2 degrees Celsius are vanishing very fast, if they are not already gone."

Emissions are growing in line with the most extreme climate models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, according to a paper in the journal Nature Climate Change that explains the Global Carbon Project's findings.

The trajectory means a temperature range of between 3.5 and 6.2 degrees by the year 2100, with a "most likely" range of between 4.2 and 5 degrees.

Although the climate has changed due to natural influences in the past, human emissions superimposed on top of natural variation is now driving change 20 times faster, according to NASA estimates. Civilisation evolved in a more moderate environment.

The new data is beginning to confirm what scientists had been warning people about for decades, said Andy Pitman, director of the Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science at the University of NSW.

"There are papers that should come with a warning: 'do not read this if you are depressed', or 'please have a stiff drink handy as you read this'. [This] paper is one such example," Professor Pitman said.

The greenhouse gas emissions path the world is taking "is not a tenable future for the planet – we cannot be that stupid as a species," he said.

Matthew England, a colleague of Professor Pitman and fellow author of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports, said: "While the science is clear that emissions reductions are required urgently, each year we are emitting more and more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. This is like a smoker ramping up the number of cigarettes smoked each day despite grave warnings to stop smoking altogether – sooner or later this catches up with you."

600 comments

  • So when are the authorities going to instigate population reduction measures?
    And why is this article accompanied by a picture of factories releasing water vapour into the atmosphere?

    Commenter
    liklik
    Location
    sydney
    Date and time
    December 03, 2012, 7:54AM
    • Spot on! Yo9u have ABSOLUTELY osed the right questions! Point is, is anybody listening.

      Commenter
      Rookie
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      December 03, 2012, 8:21AM
    • "And why is this article accompanied by a picture of factories releasing water vapour into the atmosphere?"

      Because water vapour is one of the most powerful greenhouse gases, the positive feedback loop of which amplifies CO2 warming. Also, to state the obvious, it's not dishonest to show cooling towers which release water vapour to illustrate these stories when those towers are connected to plants which burn coal! Give it up, it's just a silly argument.

      Commenter
      Rich
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      December 03, 2012, 8:22AM
    • It's a power station releasing steam, just like the pics they use of the Port Kembla Steelworks showing a chimney releasing steam. They use it because It looks dramatic and fools all the doomsdayers. Just like that classic photo of a polar bear adrift on an ice berg and suppose to shock the world.

      Commenter
      Another Grumpyoldfart
      Location
      The Green House in the Gong
      Date and time
      December 03, 2012, 8:22AM
    • The picture of factories releasing water vapour into the atmosphere is used to alarm and trick people into believing that the planet is warming. The scare-mongering global warmers will stop at nothing to force the world into some kind of hippy paradise, tree hugging nirvana.

      The problem with their line of thinking is that right-minded people are too intelligent to fall for their lies.

      Commenter
      Dave
      Location
      St Kilda
      Date and time
      December 03, 2012, 8:23AM
    • Water vapour comes from heat, heat comes from burning carbon - it's the perfect image. Industrialisation has enabled population growth so again it's the perfect image.

      I agree something needs to be done about population growth. Try telling that to the Church and its Muslim equivalent. To achieve population reduction would require massive spending on education in the third world - what's your suggestion on that.

      Commenter
      MG
      Date and time
      December 03, 2012, 8:32AM
    • We just keep bringing more people in that will help

      Commenter
      The kid
      Date and time
      December 03, 2012, 8:34AM
    • We need to stop exporting coal. Stat.

      And who cares what photos accompany this article? The fact is that invisible CO2 is billowing from those coal-fired power stations, along with the (visible) water vapour.

      Commenter
      Revert2Mean
      Date and time
      December 03, 2012, 8:34AM
    • Population reduction won't do anything. You won't see the results of Chinas attempts at population manipulation for another 50 years. It comes down to the way we live. We have become an incredibly wasteful species. We have become an incredibly destructive species. We are an incredible greedy and jealous species. Sure, this isn't everybody however it is most people. And they are like this all over the world. As a response we need to start planting trees, and lots of them. As they will start blocking the sun from hitting the surface. And they need 20-30 years to develop. And they need water to grow. And when you think about it you are talking about numbers of trees in the billions.

      Commenter
      John Michaels
      Date and time
      December 03, 2012, 8:38AM
    • Good ole' LikLik

      Faithful to the end..."its not happening", "its natural and nothing to do with humans" etc etc ad nauseum!

      Yes the photo features water vapor; what do you think makes the water vapor?

      Could it be gas or coal furnaces? might they not be generating massive amounts of CO2 that you can't see? No your right it is never been a problem has it?

      it is time for you and your fellow naysayers to 'roll over" although it is probably too late for all of us or more so, our children.

      Commenter
      peter
      Location
      Enmore
      Date and time
      December 03, 2012, 8:39AM

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