Point of No Return
Mark your calendars. A new study published in the journal Nature maps out “climate departure,” the year when the average temperature of the coolest year will be warmer than the average historic temperature of the hottest year for several hundred locations around the world. For New York and Washington, D.C., it’s 2047: In about 35 years, even the coldest monthly temperatures on the east coast of the U.S. will be warmer than any time in the past 150 years. The tropics, on average, will get there 15 years earlier – Jakarta, Indonesia and Lagos, Nigeria in 2029, for example. “By 2050, 5 billion people may face extreme climates, and migration and heightened competition for natural resources may trigger violence and instability,” reports Bloomberg News.
The study assumes we’ll be reckless-as-usual. If the world stabilizes greenhouse-gas emissions, climate departure could be delayed by more than two decades. “Conservation practitioners take heed: the climate-change race is not only on, it is fixed, with the extinction finish line looming closest for the tropics,” writes Eric Post, a professor of biology at Pennsylvania State University, in an article accompanying the study.
The Indonesian city of Manokwari is expected to get to the unfortunate finish line first, in 2020 -- the same year that a binding treaty to combat climate change would take effect, if U.N. envoys can complete negotiations by 2015.
Image of rush-hour traffic in Jakarta, Indonesia by iStock/Herianus.
Reed McManus is a senior editor at Sierra. He has worked on the magazine since Ronald Reagan’s second term. For inspiration, he turns to cartoonist R. Crumb’s Mr. Natural, who famously noted: “Twas ever thus.”