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Menopausal Mother Nature

News about Climate Change and our Planet

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The New World: Envisioning Life After Climate Change

Not very long ago, scientists warned that this could cause four or five degrees Celsius of warming, giving rise to existential fears about apocalyptic futures.

But in just the past few years, the future has begun to look somewhat different, thanks to a global political awakening, an astonishing decline in the price of clean energy, a rise in global policy ambition and revisions to some basic modeling assumptions.

When scientists talk about the path we’re on today, they are often referring to warming between two and three degrees Celsius, or between 3.6 and 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit — a little more than half as much as was projected to be the “business as usual” future a decade ago. The United Nations confirmed that range in a report released this week.

To stabilize the world’s temperatures at the cooler end of that range, two degrees, will require a near-total transformation of all the human systems that gave rise to warming: energy, transportation, agriculture, housing and industry and infrastructure. But, while ambitious and difficult, it now seems possible — a very different sort of future, neither a best-case nor a worst-case scenario.

Though it would mean environmental upheaval and climatic disruption unprecedented in the long sweep of human history, this is a more hopeful outcome than many dared to believe less than a decade ago. It is also much harsher than many had hoped for.

What follows is a partial, hopscotching geography of the jagged new world that climate change is making. As much as our planet has already been transformed by climate change, it will be transformed far more in the decades to come.

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