Scientists say that as we approach the year 2100, climate forecasts need to look broader into the future.
It is difficult to imagine what the earth will look like in 2500. But the collaboration between science and art provides a worrying window into how ever-changing climate can turn a familiar land into an alien landscape in the next few centuries.
Environmental social scientist Christopher Lyon acknowledges such horrific changes as subtropical plants dominate US western farms, India-like overheating, the drying up of the Amazon rainforest, and more.
“Fifty years have passed since the first climate forecast,” said Lyon of McGill University in Montreal. At that time, the far-reaching goal of scientists was to determine the Earth’s climate in 2100. But that date is not far off. “The effects of greenhouse gas emissions will remain for all these years.”
To visualize what the world will be like in terms of climate in the future, the researchers considered three different modes: low carbon, medium and high emissions. The exact definition of these values was based on previous United Nations reports on climate change. Thus, they predicted changes until the year 2500. The team also studied in particular the effects of changing civilizations. For example, variable crops and changes in land use and vegetation were also considered.
For all scenarios except the lowest emission, which is almost in line with limiting global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius compared to the pre-industrial era under the 2015 Paris Agreement, global temperatures will continue to rise until 2,500. At the highest emission rate, the Earth’s temperature will rise by about 2.2 degrees Celsius by 2100 and by 4.6 degrees Celsius by 2500. Researchers say this is leading to a major restructuring of the world’s ecosystems – the disappearance of most of the Amazon rainforest, changes in crops, and rising temperatures to the point that the tropics are becoming uninhabitable.
The team then worked with James McKee, an artist and scientific communications specialist at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom, to color the data. Based on the predictions of this study, McCoy created a collection of detailed paintings that show different world landscapes now and in the year 2500.
“The team tried to show what people could recognize, regardless of speculation about the future of cities and the technologies of the time,” says Lyon. For example, drones, robots, hybrid plants, etc. In one of the paintings, which describes India in 2500, a person is wearing a suit and a sealed helmet. “This dress is similar to the one that people wear today in some high-temperature environments.”
The purpose of these images is to help people visualize the future in a way that makes it look more realistic and may give people some hope to prepare for adapting to it. “If we feel change on a planetary scale, then we need to think of it as a planetary civilization,” Lyon said. “Our aim in conducting such research is to show that, contrary to what is happening to the climate now, things can be prevented from getting worse in the future.”
The emission of large amounts of greenhouse gases can increase the average global temperature by about 4.6 degrees Celsius compared to the pre-industrial era. As a result, extreme heat in India could dramatically change the way humans live in the environment. “Farmers and ranchers pictured in 2000 may need protective clothing such as cooling clothing and helmets for outdoor work by 2500.”
Researchers say that if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the same rate, the farms of the western United States, which were green in 2000, will become subtropical agricultural areas by 2,500.