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New UN Report on Global Warming: “Quite a Shock.” If Temperatures Keep Rising, Say Goodbye to Coral Reefs, the Maldives

By Peter A. Janssen

The United Nations just released a major report on global warming, painting a darker picture of the consequences of rising temperatures than scientists had previously thought. The report, by hundreds of scientists around the world and endorsed by 180 nations, “is quite a shock,” said Bill Hare, the author of earlier Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports and a physicist.

The consequence are particularly dire for coral reefs, which are vital to supporting ocean life. Warmer water triggers coral bleaching (see picture above); when coral turns white, it tends to die. The melting of the vast ice sheets on top of Greenland or the West Antarctic could cause rising sea levels around the world. Melting of summer ice in the Arctic threatens the habitat of polar bears, seals and whales. And rising sea levels threaten millions of people around the world with floods and starvation, and could wash over small island states like the Maldives or the Marshall Islands.

The earth has warmed 1 degree Celsius since the 19thcentury. The UN report looked at the consequences of it warming 1.5 or 2 degrees more. An increase of just half a degree doesn’t seem like much, but the UN scientists said it could cause coastal flooding and the end of coral reefs and Arctic summer ice by as early as 2040, much sooner than previously had been thought.

With an increase of 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius, the report says, coral reefs around the world would “mostly disappear.” No one can predict the exact tipping point for the disintegration of the vast ice sheets in Greenland or West Antarctica, but the report says with 1.5 degrees of warming they would contribute to the rise of sea levels around the world for centuries to come.

Rising sea levels would expose up to 80 million people to flooding by the turn of the century, destroying their food supplies and impoverishing their nations. The report also says that if temperatures rise at the current levels the world will suffer from more extreme weather events, such as heat waves and powerful storms. Read more:




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