By Matt Owens January 11, 2014
Above: modeled global average temperature with business as usual emissions.
Less terrifying, more horrifying. That, more or less, was the between-the-lines takeaway from Friday's National Research Council (NRC) briefing on abrupt climate change.
The event was part of an announcement of the NRC's newly released and finalized report, “Abrupt Impacts of Climate Change: Anticipating Surprises.”
Several of the scientists involved in the report were present, including James White from the University of Colorado at Boulder, Anthony Barnosky from the University of California at Berkeley, and Richard Alley from Penn State University.
In one of the most shocking statements, Barnosky said the world's oceans are now undergoing a change in pH and temperature that is so rapid and severe, that if we stay on our business-as-usual emissions pathway, then we will see the most significant degradation in the world's oceans since 250 million years ago when there was the “end-Permian extinction event.” That was possibly the most extreme extinction event in Earth's entire history. Over 90% of marine species in the fossil record went extinct.
“Just in the next five or six decades we will see some very major problems,” Barnosky said.