Our World in 2100

What will our planet look like and feel like in the year 2100? An Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report dated Sept. 29, 2016, uses the latest climate models and climate research to give us an idea of probable global conditions at the beginning of the 22nd Century.

The range of conditions depends on how much CO2 we continue to pump into the atmosphere by burning gasoline, oil, coal, and natural gas. If we significantly cut back on the burning of fossil fuels in favor of wind, solar, and other renewable sources, the impact of climate change will be less severe. If we continue burning fossil fuels at the present rate, the impact of climate change will be extreme.

CO2 Levels. Parts per million (PPM) of CO2 in the atmosphere currently stands at 400, a substantial increase over the historical PPM of 280. The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) puts forth four scenarios for future climate, depending on the level of fossil fuel burning: The lowest scenario is a rapid curtailing of fossil fuel burning and the PPM remaining around 400. The highest is based on burning fossil fuels at the current rate, in which case we could see a PPM as high as 1,400. The most realistic scenario would be the middle path of 600 to 800 PPM. The higher the PPM, the hotter our world will be.

Temperature Increase. The range of global temperature increase by 2100 will range from 0.5°F to 8.6°F, with a likely increase of at least 2.7°F. The average US temperature is projected to increase 3°F to 12°F by 2100. Among the projections are more intense and more frequent heat waves, and an increase in the number of 90-degree days.

Rainfall & Storms. Global average annual precipitation is expected to increase, but amounts will vary by region. When it rains, the rain will come down harder and there will be more of it than in the past. Wind speeds associated with tropical storms will increase, and amount of rain falling in a tropical storm will be heavier. Flood-prone areas will be at higher risk.

Ice Caps, Glaciers, & Snow. The coastal sections of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are expected to continue to melt and slide into the ocean. Models project a 15% to 25% decrease in amount and extent of arctic sea ice for every 2°F of global warming. Glaciers are expected to continue shrinking, the melt water contributing to sea level rise. Globally, snow cover is expected to decrease by 15%. Snow season will start later and melting will happen earlier than at present. Mountain snowpack will be thinner and melt earlier.

Sea Level Rise. Studies project global sea level rise by 1 to 4 feet, with an outside possibility of 6.6 feet, depending on the rate of ice sheet and glacier melt. A sea level rise of 2 feet will raise the sea level in New York harbor 2.3 feet, Hampton Roads 2.9 feet, and Galveston 3.5 feet. With sea levels that high, storm surges could inflict great damage in those areas.

Ocean Acidity. Acid content of the ocean is projected to increase 30%, weakening the shells of shrimp, crabs, lobsters, and clams, and devastating coral reefs.

It looks like 2100 will see longer, hotter summers, shorter winters, intense rainfall in wet areas, desert-dry drought in others, and stronger storms. We can help ourselves and future generations soften the impact by speeding up the changeover from fossil fuels to renewable energy.