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Climate change could make Earth inhospitable by 2500

A research team led by McGill University estimates that if greenhouse emissions are not quickly curbed, Earth will be unrecognizable by 2500, with some regions becoming completely inhospitable. The projections suggest that by this time in our planet’s future, the Amazon will be barren, the American Midwest tropical, and India will be too hot to inhabit.

Although many scientific studies talk about the long-term impacts of climate change in terms of increasing greenhouse emissions, temperatures, or sea levels, most of them don’t look further than 2100. According to the McGill study, published in the journal Global Change Biology, to fully grasp and plan for climate impacts, scientists and policymakers should look well beyond the end of this century. 

“The Paris Agreement, the United Nations, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s scientific assessment reports, all show us what we need to do before 2100 to meet our goals, and what could happen if we don’t,” said study lead author Christopher Lyon. “But this benchmark, which has been used for over 30 years, is short-sighted because people born now will only be in their 70s by 2100.”

“We need to envision the Earth our children and grandchildren may face, and what we can do now to make it just and liveable for them. If we fail to meet the Paris Agreement goals, and emissions keep rising, many places in the world will dramatically change.”

By running global climate model projections based on time-dependent projections of greenhouse gas concentrations for low, medium, and high mitigation scenarios up to the year 2500, the scientists found that the Earth might become largely inhospitable for future generations.

Under low and medium mitigation scenarios, in which global warming will not be limited to values below two degrees Celsius, vegetation could move to the poles, leaving currently rich ecosystems such as the Amazon Basin barren. The densely populated tropics will likely become too hot to be inhabitable, and global sea levels will keep rising.

“These projections point to the potential magnitude of climate upheaval on longer time scales and fall within the range of assessments made by others,” said Dr. Lyon. Thus, climate projections and the policies that depend on them should look further into the future in order to fully grasp the long-term scope of climate impacts.

By Andrei Ionescu, Staff Writer

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