ONE DEGREE OF WARMING
Unfortunately, due to the concentrations of Co2 already in the atmosphere a one degree rise in global temperatures is now unavoidable.
The conequences of this rise are already being played out around the world.
DRINKING WATER DRYING UP NEAR THE EQUATOR
The Hadley centre has calculated that a one-degree increase will eliminate fresh water from a third of the world's land surface by 2100. This is already becoming a reality. Glaciers in the Himalayas are receding faster than in any other part of the world and the likelihood of them disappearing by the year 2035 is very high. The decreased runoff will affect water levels in ten major rivers. All together these supply fresh water to 1.3 billion people, close to one-fifth of the world's population. American corporations, who are always willing to turn a crisis into profit, are already planning to ship vast quantities of fresh water from Alaska to sell in India see their press release here.
ARCTIC ICECAPS MELTING
While tropical lands teeter on the brink, the Arctic already may have passed the point of no return. Warming near the pole is much faster than the global average, with the result that Arctic icecaps and glaciers have lost 400 cubic kilometres of ice in 40 years. Permafrost - ground that has lain frozen for thousands of years - is dissolving into mud and lakes, "destabilising whole areas as the ground collapses beneath buildings, roads and pipelines". As polar bears and Inuits are being pushed off the top of the planet, previous predictions are starting to look optimistic.
Out at sea the pace is even faster. "Whilst snow-covered ice reflects more than 80% of the sun's heat, the darker ocean absorbs up to 95% of solar radiation. Once sea ice begins to melt, in other words, the process becomes self-reinforcing. More ocean surface is revealed, absorbing solar heat, raising temperatures and making it unlikelier that ice will re-form next winter. The disappearance of 720,000 square kilometres of supposedly permanent ice in a single year testifies to the rapidity of planetary change.
MOUNTAIN PERMAFROST MELT
Mountains, too, are starting to come apart. In the Alps, most ground above 3,000 metres is stabilised by permafrost. In the summer of 2003, however, the melt zone climbed right up to 4,600 metres, higher than the summit of the Matterhorn and nearly as high as Mont Blanc. With the glue of millennia melting away, rocks showered down and 50 climbers died. As temperatures go on edging upwards, it won't just be mountaineers who flee. "Whole towns and villages will be at risk," says Lynas. "Some towns, like Pontresina in eastern Switzerland, have already begun building bulwarks against landslides."
RISING SEA LEVELS
Low-lying atoll countries such as the Maldives are preparing for extinction as sea levels rise, in 2008 the Maldive President Mohamed Nasheed announced that they will begin to divert a portion of the country's billion-dollar annual tourist revenue into buying a new homeland. BBC article.
US DROUGHTS AND DESERTIFICATION
"The western United States once again could suffer perennial droughts, far worse than the 1930s. Deserts will reappear particularly in Nebraska, but also in eastern Montana, Wyoming and Arizona, northern Texas and Oklahoma. As dust and sandstorms turn day into night across thousands of miles of former prairie, farmsteads, roads and even entire towns will be engulfed by sand."
Chance of avoiding one degree of global warming: zero.