Good News: Earth May be a Tad Warmer by the End of the Century

If a recent study published in a British peer-reviewed journal called Nature Climate Change is to be believed, the near-global crisis faced every year of cold-related deaths may see some relief…slowly, but surely.

Though the study’s conclusions rely on a computer-generated model, something that historically speaking has not produced accurate climate predictions with any consistency, the authors seem extremely confident their predictions are based on observable data rather than mere speculation.

That’s great news for the large portions of the Earth’s population that lives in non-tropical climate zones. While the wealthiest among them have the means to escape harsh winters and brutal cold snaps that can strike for weeks at a time, the majority cannot. They are left to endure sub-zero temperatures, a reality that also puts a strain on public resources to fund warming centers, heated shelters, and extra patrols to help the underprivileged find their way to safety.

According to the study:

There’s only a 5% chance that Earth will warm 2 degrees or less by the end of this century, the study said. It shows a mere 1% chance that warming could be at or below 1.5 degrees.

Said another way, there is a 95% that the Earth will warm another 2 degrees by the end of the century. While that may not be enough to melt the tundra, the possibilities seem extraordinary.

The amount of arable land would increase, bringing life to currently barren soil. Even increasing farmable land by the smallest of percentages could do wonders for the world’s food production, for farm markets, and for feeding the starving third world.

That latter point, coupled with the uniform decrease in cold-related deaths, is obviously the most important. Even in a more temperate climate zone like the continental United States, the CDC has reported a dangerous increase in the amount of cold related, hypothermic deaths in recent years.

More than 13,400 hypothermia deaths occurred in the United States between 2003 and 2013, with unadjusted annual rates ranging from 0.3 to 0.5 per 100,000 persons, the report says. A statistically significant increase in death rates from hypothermia occurred over the decade.

And though the mind of pop culture conjures up images of the retired “snowbirds” migrating south to Florida for the winter, the tragic fact remains that the most susceptible to the cold weather that plagues our planet are the elderly.

Men and women aged 65 or older are at much greater risk of hypothermia death. Average death rates for male seniors were 1.8 per 100,000 people during the decade in question, while female seniors had a 1.1 per 100,000 people hypothermia death rate, the report found.

So while this is just one study that will certainly be subject to additional scrutiny, particularly in light of so many recent failed predictions and promises of a warming Earth, there appears to at least be some warm light at the end of a long tunnel.

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Peter Heck

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