“To limit the risks of climate change, we must not exceed the two-degree Celsius mark. At present, however, we are heading for four degrees by the end of the century. This poses great dangers,” said Prof. Ottmar Edenhofer, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and one of the world’s most renowned climate scientists, in an interview last year.
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In the interview, Edenhofer warned, among other things, of increasing extreme weather events, the disappearance of coral reefs, altered monsoon dynamics in China and India, the drying out of the Amazon rainforest, the thawing of permafrost soils and rising sea levels. “If we have to spend more money on coastal protection, that money is missing elsewhere. Risks to crop yields are increasing. Industrial supply chains are disrupted, in areas of tension, smoldering conflicts can flare up and drive more people into migrating.”
A few months ago, the Berlin energy expert Prof. Volker Quaschning, co-founder of Scientists for Future, stressed that in the long-term large areas could become uninhabitable due to rising sea levels or unbearable heat. “All in all, the habitats of several billion people would be lost. Imagine that this number of people would have to be resettled within a century. In Germany, we have just seen that even one million refugees can trigger social upheaval,” says Quaschning. The situation would be exacerbated by problems in the global food and drinking water supply. “Some studies therefore assume that unchecked climate change will lead to such severe armed conflicts that our civilization will be completely destroyed.”
We are already experiencing the consequences of climate change in Central Europe – warned the well-known Kiel climate scientist Prof. Mojib Latif. “We are already getting a foretaste,” he said, referring to recent heat waves. “Many of us would probably never have dreamed that we would one day wish for rain. The other extreme is torrential rainfall, which causes small streams, but also rivers like the Danube, Elbe and Oder to flood.
However, Latif said last year that global warming is hitting developing countries even harder. They lack the financial means to protect themselves from storms or floods. Hundreds or thousands of deaths from storms were the result.
Crop failures across the corn belts
Research teams regularly present new results that underline the warnings. For example, a recent international study showed how global heat waves could lead to crop failures in several grain regions simultaneously – triggered by certain patterns in the jet stream, a high-altitude wind that circles the earth. The West of North America and Russia, Western Europe and Ukraine are particularly vulnerable.
In another study, scientists warn that if greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated until the end of this century, up to five additional heat waves per year are to be expected in northern Germany and up to 30 in southern Germany. The Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research wrote in a press release: “The resulting heat stress and high ground-level ozone concentrations can have serious consequences for human health. The people most at risk are the elderly, babies, patients with chronic diseases and people who perform heavy physical work outdoors, such as construction workers.” At the same time, the risk of infectious diseases is increasing.