The image on the left anticipates increasing greenhouse gas emissions over the course of the century, which leads to a rise of just over 4C; the one on the right shows what'll happen if emissions gradually decrease - a rise of only 2C.
But obviously the warming, in either scenario, won't be uniform. The images really show how much more dramatic warming is forecast to be over land than over the ocean. Bear that in mind when you hear forecasts of like 4C warming by the end of this century: that's a global average, but it'll be considerably higher over land, which of course is where humans and cute baby elephants and things tend to live.
Meanwhile, talks in Copenhagen are hitting various sorts of predictable roadblocks:
China and the United States were at an impasse on Monday at the United Nations climate change conference here over how compliance with any treaty could be monitored and verified.If there's reason for optimism about the world's ability to do anything useful to slow our eminently foreseeable slide into global environmental devastation, it is this: if the US and China can just work out a framework for tackling the problem in a meaningful way, then Europe and Japan would surely follow; and just like that the countries producing a substantial majority of emissions will be on board. The rest of the world would not stand in the way (though OPEC would surely throw a fit).
China, which last month for the first time publicly announced a target for reducing the rate of growth of its greenhouse gas emissions, is refusing to accept any kind of international monitoring of its emissions levels, according to negotiators and observers here. The United States is insisting that without stringent verification of China’s actions, it cannot support any deal.
If there's reason to be pessimistic about same, however, it's that the US and China would both have to agree to do something to meaningfully thwart global warming. For China, that would mean altering the model of industrialization that has brought them unprecedented and almost miraculous wealth in the last couple of decades, not to mention a growing role as a global power. For the US, it would mean overcoming the ossification of decline, including the extensive corruption of the political process and Versaillization of the political media, that appears to have compromised our ability to achieve any significant reforms on any front. In other words...
UPDATE: But here is some good news:
Negotiators have all but completed a sweeping deal that would compensate countries for preserving forests and in some cases other natural landscapes like peat soils, swamps and fields that play a crucial role in curbing climate change.So it's good to hear some concrete good will come out of this meeting. And of course preserving ecosystems carries all sorts of environmental benefits along with it, beyond the increased absorption of greenhouse gases. But on the other hand:
Environmental groups have long advocated such a compensation program because forests are efficient absorbers of carbon dioxide, the primary heat-trapping gas linked to global warming. Rain forest destruction, which releases the carbon dioxide stored in trees, is estimated to account for 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions globally.
The agreement for the program, once signed, may turn out to be the most significant achievement to come out of the Copenhagen climate talks, providing a system through which countries can be paid for conserving disappearing natural assets based on their contribution to reducing emissions.
A final agreement on the program may not be announced until the end of the week, when President Obama and other world leaders arrive — in part because there has been so little progress on other issues at the climate summit, sponsored by the United Nations.Baby steps... Who knows. we may yet manage to cobble together a decent approach to global warming by the end of the century or so.