Bad news from MIT: climate change likely to be worse than expected
A new study from MIT concludes that the earth's temperature is likely to rise 5.2 degrees Celsius by 2100, much higher than the 2.4 degree increase commonly cited from a 2003 study. "There is significantly more risk than we previously estimated," said Ronald Prinn, the study's co-author and the co-director of the Joint Program and director of MIT's Center for Global Change Science, adding that "there's no way the world can or should take these risks."
The model used by MIT in the new study considers a much more comprehensive range of factors. In particular, it is the only climate change model that includes "detailed treatment of possible changes in human activities as well - such as the degree of economic growth, with its associated energy use, in different countries."
MIT rans its statistical model 400 times to arrive at the median probability surface temperature increase of 5.2 degrees, which has a 90% probability range of the predicted increase is 3.5 to 7.4 degrees. The Telegraph quotes Friends of the Earth climate campaigner Tom Picken as saying that "The consequences of such changes would be off the known scale. They are unthinkable. A 7.4C rise would mean severe ecosystem collapse worldwide, with total economic collapse in many parts of the world. The planet would face resource wars between people, and you can safely say many, many hundred of millions of people would die."
The 3.5 to 7.4 degree range assumes that the world does not initiate a significant policy response to the issue of climate change. Somewhat more encouragingly, the research team ran a second version of the model based on an aggressive policy response. That version predicted increases similar to the 2003 model.
Taking a cue from the marketing world, the team illustrated the differences between the two possible outcomes using two roulette wheels.