Again, Stuart Staniford runs the numbers and clarifies the analysis, and comes up with some really hideously bad possibilities. In his “Odds of Cooking the Grandchildren” Staniford shows us the implications of a PNAS paper that I’d missed:
There is a horrible paper in this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (hat-tip Desdemona Despair), which looks at how the limits of human physiology interact with upper-range global warming scenarios. The bottom line conclusion is that there is a small – of order 5% – risk of global warming creating a situation in which a large fraction of the planet was uninhabitable (in the sense that if you were outside for an extended period during the hottest days of the year, even in the shade with wet clothing, you would die). To give you a feeling for the likely uninhabitable regions, it’s the portions of the map above that are in the white or pink/purple color (above 35oC wet bulb temperature on the scale). As you can see, it includes most of the eastern US, much of inland Brazil and Latin America, tropical Africa, pretty much all of India, portions of northern China, and most of Australia. Plenty to qualify as a “Risk to Global Civilization”, I think.
Read it and weep – and I mean that quite literally.
Moreover, ask yourself whether you consider a 5% chance of that outcome an acceptable risk. There’s an answer – it involves rapid deindustrialization, it would be difficult, politically complex, painful and costly. So it comes down to this very basic question – how much do all of us really love our kids and our grandkids?