Climate Change Vastly Worse Than Previously Thought

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Dec. 31 2013 11:33 AM

Climate Change Vastly Worse Than Previously Thought

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Damage from Typhoon Haiyan. Expect more and more of this.

Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

A new study published in Nature suggests that climate change is even worse than scientists had previously anticipated, upgrading the forecast from "dangerous" to "catastrophic." According to the study's authors, temperatures are currently snared in an upward spiral: As earth gets hotter, the heat prevents sunlight-reflecting clouds from forming, trapping more heat and further exacerbating the problem. The result could be a temperature climb of 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100.

The alarming report follows yet another confirmation, this time by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, that humans are almost indubitably the drivers of climate change. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has expressed concern, stating that "if this isn't an alarm bell, then I don't know what one is. If ever there were an issue that demanded greater cooperation, partnership, and committed diplomacy, this is it."

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But the unnerving escalaton in climate change is unlikely to be abated without significant U.S. support—and for the time being, the Republican Party insists on stonewalling any efforts to offset the human-caused warming process. Given that the U.S. is the second biggest contributor to climate change, its participation in any international resolution is absolutely vital. Yet with one major political party blocking such support, the odds seem increasingly likely that 2100 will, indeed, bring with it a "catastrophic" increase of global heat. 

Mark Joseph Stern is a writer for Slate. He covers science, the law, and LGBTQ issues.