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What Earth might look like in 80 years if we're lucky — or if we're unlucky

Bleached coral

  • 2018 was the warmest year on record for the planet’s oceans, and the fourth-warmest year ever in terms of surface temperature.
  • Scientists are discovering that melting in Greenland and Antarctica is occurring much faster than they previously thought.
  • These changes could spell disaster for coastal economies in the form of sea-level rise and more frequent (and intense) natural disasters like hurricanes.
  • If worldwide carbon-dioxide emissions aren’t curbed significantly — and soon — Earth might be almost unrecognizable by the year 2100.

We’ve already gotten a series of one-two punches on the climate change front this year: Ocean temperatures broke records, Arctic and Antarctic melting reached unprecedented rates, and extreme weather swept through the US. 

An increasing number of people are concerned about the issue of climate change, as evidenced by recent worldwide climate strikes and efforts by US lawmakers to enact new environmental legislation.

On April 22, the world will celebrate the 49th annual Earth Day, a global event that more than 1 billion people participate in across 192 countries. This year, Earth Day organizers are attempting to call attention to one particular consequence of a warming planet: the skyrocketing number of flora and fauna species that are becoming vulnerable to extinction.

Read More: 12 signs we’re in the middle of a 6th mass extinction

If we hope to limit some of these impending extinctions, along with the other disastrous effects of climate change, we must make drastic cuts — and soon — to greenhouse-gas emissions from energy production, transportation, industrial work, farming, and other sectors.

According to the most recent report from the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), global temperatures will likely rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels between 2030 and 2052 if warming continues at the current rate. Staying under that threshold was the optimistic goal set in the Paris climate agreement.

But even if carbon emissions were to drop to zero tomorrow, we’d still be watching human-driven climate change play out for centuries. 

“There’s no stopping global warming,” Gavin Schmidt, a climate scientist and the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies, previously told Business Insider. “Everything that’s happened so far is baked into the system.”

Here’s what the Earth could look like by 2100 in our best- and worst-case scenarios.

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To understand where we’re headed, we must first assess the changes we’re already observing. Since 2001, we’ve seen 18 of the 19 warmest years ever.

The planet’s oceans absorb a whopping 93% of the extra heat that greenhouse gases trap in the atmosphere. Last year was the warmest year on record for the oceans.

By the end of 2012, Greenland had lost more than 400 billion tons of ice — almost quadruple the amount of loss in 2003. Except for a one-year lull between 2013 and 2014, those losses continue to accelerate.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider