"The Uninhabitable Earth" isn't just a book title, it's a warning.
A new study and a new book both argue that the worst-case scenario for global warming would literally render the planet uninhabitable.
The book is entitled “The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming” and is written by New York Magazine editor David Wallace-Wells; it is an expansion of his controversial viral article published in July 2017 with the same title. As of Feb. 26, it is number 11 on the Amazon best-seller list — a rarity for any climate book, but perhaps another sign of the growing interest in strong climate action.
The book, published just last week, makes the case that without dramatic climate action, we are headed for catastrophic warming of 7°F (4°C) above pre-industrial temperatures by 2100 — a world of ever-worsening megadroughts and endless food shortages.
But, as Wallace-Wells warns, even the unlikely worst-case warming scenario of 14.4°F (8°C) is possible if we keep on a path of high carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions — and if the climate response is at the high end of the estimated range. Warming of this magnitude would essentially render the world uninhabitable, where little arable land survives and the oceans eventually rise more than 200 feet.
Meanwhile, a new study published Monday in Nature Geoscience led by NASA senior scientist Tapio Schneider looks at one way that the worst-case scenario could get much worse.
The study looks at what happens if we triple atmospheric CO2 concentrations to 1200 parts per million (ppm) from their current level of 410 ppm. This is unlikely, but still possible given current rates of emissions, especially if we trigger key amplifying feedbacks — such as the release of vast quantities of CO2 from the melting Arctic permafrost.