Looking at Climate Change in the 2040s

Should our emissions continue to increase at the current rate, forest fires are likely to batter much of Europe while rising sea-levels and raging storms are likely to decimate many of the world's most famous cities.

2040 – Carbon Emissions Still Rising

Scientists announce that annual human-made carbon dioxide emissions have now risen to 56.8 billion tonnes equivalent.1 That is a massive 58% increase since the turn of the century.2 This is despite many nations making substantial reductions in their greenhouse gas emissions. The dramatic rise has been caused predominantly by a booming world population, an unregulated increase in affluence and a general reluctance to adopt renewable technologies. As a result, the amount of carbon dioxide equivalent in the atmosphere has soared to over 545 ppm – roughly double what it was at the turn of the twentieth century.3
Scientists Measure Atmospheric Concentrations of Carbon Dioxide

2042 – Wild Fires Ravage Europe

Extreme summer temperatures have caused massive outbreaks of wildfires across Southern Europe.4 Early estimates put the damage at $3.5 billion.5 Spain, Southern France, Turkey, the Balkans, Italy and Portugal have all suffered as forests, orchards and crops have burnt to the ground.6 In total, some 600,000 people have been affected in addition to an estimated 1,500 losing their lives as the fires rampage through small communities at speeds of as much as 50 kilometres per hour.7 Nearly all public transport has been cancelled, and millions have been left without electricity.8 In some cases, the fires have become so large that they can be seen from space.9 Climatologists blame the fires on the decrease in rainfall and record-breaking summer temperatures which have left the forests tinder-dry.10 Worryingly too, as temperatures continue to rise, climatologists state that the fires will get even larger and last for even longer. With water shortages already affecting Southern Europe and the deserts expanding,11 many estimate it will not be long before some Mediterranean towns become completely abandoned.12
Firefighters Battle Flames in a Small Rural Town in Spain
Waves of Water Roll Through the Streets of Manhattan

2047 – World Cities Washed Away by Monster Storms!

The world is left reeling as coastal cities around the world succumb to rising sea levels and raging storms.13 In particular, Mumbai, Shanghai, New Orleans, Amsterdam, New York City, Mumbai, Tokyo and Osaka have all been hit hard.14 In total, some 68 million people have been evacuated from their homes,15 with some 10 million unable to return due to the extent of the damage to their properties.16 Across the globe, some 500,000 people have lost their lives to the storms in addition to an estimated $120 billion in damages.17 Climatologists state that these massive storms are just the beginning though. As global average temperatures rise, so too will the intensity of the storms and the average height of sea levels. Ominously, climatologists predict that this could result in annual damages of more than $800 billion by the end of the century.18

Climate Change in the 2050s

The damage caused by climate change does not stop in 2047! Find out what disasters our greenhouse gas emissions will likely cause in the next decade by selecting the link below. Alternatively, find out how we can stop climate change by returning to the main menu.

Image Credits

Image of scientists measuring atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (Kennedy Siding Flux Tower) taken by Andreas Christen, released on Flickr and reproduced under Creative Commons license CC BY 2.0. Minor modifications undertaken by SUPER RADICAL LTD.

Image of firefighters in Spain created by SUPER RADICAL LTD. Firemen overlay taken by an anonymous source and reproduced with permission. Fire underlay sourced from ‘Fire Inside an Abandoned Convent in Massueville‘ taken by Sylvain Pedneault, released on Wikimedia and reproduced under Creative Commons license CC BY-SA 3.0.

Images of waves in Manhattan created by SUPER RADICAL LTD. City underlay sourced from ‘Manhattan Street‘ taken by Willem van Bergen, released on Flickr and reproduced under Creative Commons license CC BY-SA 2.0. Screaming woman overlay taken by Johan Larson and reproduced under license from Adobe Stock. Boat overlay sourced from ‘Rescued Flood Victims‘ taken by the U.S. Geological Survey and released into the public domain. Wave underlay sourced from ‘The Wedge‘ taken by SkiEngineer and reproduced under Creative Commons license CC BY-SA 4.0. Sky underlay sourced from ‘Storm in the South Pacific‘ taken by Fanny Schertzer and reproduced under Creative Commons license CC BY-SA 3.0.

General Notes

Barrels of oil equivalent is based on 1628.2 kWh of energy being contained within each barrel. Data sourced from Unit Juggler – 'Converter: Barrel of Oil Equivalent to Kilowatt-Hour' – unitjuggler.com.

The volume of one tonne of carbon dioxide is equivalent to 556.2 cubic metres. Sourced from International Carbon Bank and Exchange – 'CO2 Volume Calculation' – www.icbe.com.

For further information about any of the sources listed, please visit the ZERO EMISSION WORLD Works Cited page.

Article Endnotes

  1. Based on human-made greenhouse gas emissions being some 47.9 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2012 and some 49.1 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2015. Emissions sourced from Crippa et al. – 'Fossil CO2 and GHG Emissions of All World Countries - 2019 Report' – Database.
  2. Based on human-made greenhouse gas emissions being some 36 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2000, human-made greenhouse gas emissions being some 47.9 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2012, human-made greenhouse gas emissions being some 49.1 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2015 and human-made greenhouse gas emissions continuing to increase at the current rate. Emissions sourced from Crippa et al. – 'Fossil CO2 and GHG Emissions of All World Countries - 2019 Report' – Database.
  3. Atmospheric concentrations based on Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5, including all forcing agents, and sourced from RCP Data Comparison – 'RCP Database' – www.iiasa.ac.at. Increase based on atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide equivalent being around 287 ppm at the turn of the twentieth century. Atmospheric concentrations at the turn of the century sourced from RCP Data Comparison – 'RCP Database' – www.iiasa.ac.at.
  4. Based on two to six additional weeks of fire risk occurring everywhere in the Mediterranean region, with the exception southern Italy, Cyprus and the south-eastern Mediterranean region, if average global temperatures rise by more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels and average global temperatures likely rising 2°C above pre-industrial levels come 2045 if human-made emissions continue to increase at the current rate. Additional weeks of fire sourced from Giannakopoulos et al. – 'Climate Change Impacts in the Mediterranean Resulting from a 2°C Global Temperature Rise' – Pages 41 to 45. Projected temperature rise based on Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5 and sourced from Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – 'Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report' – Pages 10 and 11.
  5. Loose estimate based on the 2003 forest fires experienced by Europe causing some $1 billion in damages to Portugal, 60% of the forest areas destroyed being within Portugal and the damage inflicted as a result of forest fires likely doubling due to a combination of increased fire risk and additional areas exposed. Cost of damages and area destroyed sourced from De Bono et al. – 'Impacts of Summer 2003 Heat Wave in Europe' (Mar 2004) – Page 4.
  6. Affected locations based on map data showing areas regions exposed to more than four weeks more fire risk if average global temperatures rise by more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels and average global temperatures likely rising 2°C above pre-industrial levels come 2045 if human-made emissions continue to increase at the current rate. Map data sourced from Giannakopoulos et al. – 'Climate Change Impacts in the Mediterranean Resulting from a 2°C Global Temperature Rise' – Page 44. Projected temperature rise based on Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5 and sourced from Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – 'Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report' – Pages 10 and 11.
  7. Number of people affected based on the 2007 wildfires experienced by the United States and sourced from Guha-Sapir, Below, and Hoyois – 'EM-DAT: The CRED/OFDA International Disaster Database' – www.emdat.be. Number of people losing their lives based loosely on the 1871 Peshtigo Fire experienced by the United States and sourced from Encyclopaedia Britannica – 'Peshtigo' – www.britannica.com. Speed of fire spread based on 2001 Black Christmas Bushfires experienced by Australia and sourced from Hughes, Dominic – 'Sifting Through the Ashes' – news.bbc.co.uk.
  8. Electrical losses based on general infrastructure damage forcing France, Europe's leading electricity exporter, to cut power by more than 50% during the 2003 summer heatwaves. Sourced from De Bono et al. – 'Impacts of Summer 2003 Heat Wave in Europe' (Mar 2004) – Page 3.
  9. Based on images taken by satellites of the 2005 wildfires experienced by Portugal. Sourced from BBC News – 'Portugal Fires Threaten Thousands' – news.bbc.co.uk.
  10. Record-breaking temperatures based on the number of hot days increasing by two weeks along the coast and by between five to six weeks inland if average global temperatures rise by 2°C above pre-industrial levels. Decrease in rainfall based on the north of the Mediterranean experiencing a 0% to 10% drop in precipitation and the South Mediterranean experiencing a 10% to 20% drop in precipitation if average global temperatures rise by 2°C above pre-industrial levels. Sourced from Giannakopoulos et al. – 'Climate Change Impacts in the Mediterranean Resulting from a 2°C Global Temperature Rise' – Pages 20 and 25. Likely increase in average global temperatures based on projections average global temperatures will rise by 2°C above pre-industrial levels come 2045 if human-made emissions continue to increase at the current rate. Projected temperature rise based on Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5 and sourced from Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – 'Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report' – Pages 10 and 11.
  11. Based on projections of widespread desertification in the Mediterranean if average global temperatures rise by 2°C above pre-industrial levels and average global temperatures likely rising 2°C above pre-industrial levels come 2045 if human-made emissions continue to increase at the current rate. Widespread desertification sourced from Giannakopoulos et al. – 'Climate Change Impacts in the Mediterranean Resulting from a 2°C Global Temperature Rise' – Page 45. Projected temperature rise based on Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5 and sourced from Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – 'Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report' – Pages 10 and 11.
  12. Based on the human body not being able to use evaporative cooling if wet-bulb temperatures are greater than 35°C and peak wet-bulb temperatures in France likely exceeding 43°C come 2100. Peak wet-bulb temperatures based on peak summer temperatures during the 2003 summer heatwaves experienced by France reaching 37°C, average humidity levels in Paris exceeding 70% during July 2015, peak temperatures likely rising more than 12°C if atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide double from those measured in 2005 and atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide likely doubling by around 2080 if human-made greenhouse gas emissions increase at the current rate until 2060 and stop by 2070. Projection assumes human-made emissions result in the terrestrial biosphere and thawing permafrost soil releasing a further 351 ppm of carbon dioxide equivalent into the atmosphere by 2100. Temperature requirements for evaporative cooling sourced from Sherwood, Steven and Huber, Matthew – 'An Adaptability Limit to Climate Change Due to Heat Stress' – Pages 9,552 to 9,555. Peak temperatures in France sourced from Encyclopaedia Britannica – 'European Heat Wave of 2003' – www.britannica.com. Average humidity levels for Paris sourced from World Weather and Climate Information – 'Climate in Paris (Ile de France), France' – weather-and-climate.com. Projected rise in peak temperatures sourced from Clark, Brown and Murphy – 'Modeling Northern Hemisphere Summer Heat Extreme Changes and their Uncertainties Using a Physics Ensemble of Climate Sensitivity Experiments' – Page 4,425. Projected increase in atmospheric concentrations due to human-made emissions based on Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5 and sourced from RCP Data Comparison – 'RCP Database' – www.iiasa.ac.at. Terrestrial biosphere emissions sourced from Cox et al. – 'Acceleration of Global Warming Due to Carbon-Cycle Feedbacks in a Coupled Climate Model' – Pages 184 to 187. Thawing permafrost emissions based on Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5 and sourced from MacDougall et al. – 'Significant Contribution to Climate Warming from the Permafrost Carbon Feedback' – Pages 719 to 721. For reference, the wet-bulb temperature is the temperature air would attain if it were cooled at constant pressure by evaporating all the water within it. Sourced from Dunlop, Storm – 'Dictionary of Weather, Second Edition' – Page 288.
  13. Based on projected increases in storm intensity and a projected 0.75-metre sea-level rise. Increase in storm intensity based on projections that there will be fewer tropical cyclones, but also an increase in average cyclone intensity, precipitation rates and the number of very intense category 4 and 5 storms if atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide equivalent exceed 580 ppm and atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide likely increasing to 585 ppm come 2045 if human-made emissions continue to increase at the current rate. Changes to cyclone frequency and intensity sourced from Knutson et al. – 'Global Projections of Intense Tropical Cyclone Activity for the Late Twenty-First Century from Dynamical Downscaling of CMIP5/RCP4.5 Scenarios' – Pages 7,203 to 7,224. Atmospheric concentrations increase based on Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5. including all forcing agents, and sourced from RCP Data Comparison – 'RCP Database' – www.iiasa.ac.at. Projected sea-level rise based on projections of a likely average rise of 1.5 metres by the end of the century if human-made greenhouse gas emissions increase at the current rate until 2060 and stop by 2070. Projection assumes human-made emissions result in the terrestrial biosphere and thawing permafrost soil releasing a further 351 ppm of carbon dioxide equivalent into the atmosphere by 2100. Projected sea-level rise sourced from Horton et al. – 'Expert Assessment of Sea-Level Rise by AD 2100 and AD 2300' – Pages 1 to 5. Terrestrial biosphere emissions sourced from Cox et al. – 'Acceleration of Global Warming Due to Carbon-Cycle Feedbacks in a Coupled Climate Model' – Pages 184 to 187. Thawing permafrost emissions based on Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5 and sourced from MacDougall et al. – 'Significant Contribution to Climate Warming from the Permafrost Carbon Feedback' – Pages 719 to 721.
  14. Based on a selection of cities that have been identified as having an extreme vulnerability to storm damage and storm surge damage. Sourced from Sundermann et al. – 'Mind the Risk - A Global Ranking of Cities Under Threat from Natural Disasters' – Pages 28 and 29.
  15. Based on those at risk of storm damage in Pearl River Delta, Tokyo, and Manila, Osaka and Taipei and those at risk of storm surge damage in Mumbai, Amsterdam, Nagoya, Shanghai, Kolkata, Ho Chi Minh and New York being evacuated. Number of people at risk a loose estimate based on 2014 risk analysis and sourced from Sundermann et al. – 'Mind the Risk - A Global Ranking of Cities Under Threat from Natural Disasters' – Pages 28 and 29.
  16. Assumes 15% of people evacuated are unable to return to their homes. Percentage based on 1.7 million being evacuated in New Orleans and some 100,000 trailers being organised for those who were unable to return to their homes. Number of people evacuated and number of trailers organised sourced from Goldman, Lynn and Coussens, Christine – 'Environmental Public Health Impacts of Disasters: Hurricane Katrina, Workshop Summary' – Page 18. Number of people in each trailer calculated from 2015 United States average household occupancy. Sourced from United States Census Bureau – 'Changes in Household Size, Average Number of People per Household' – Page 1.
  17. Number of lives lost loosely based on the 1970 Bhola Cyclone in which up to 500,000 people lost their lives. Sourced from Encyclopaedia Britannica – 'Ganges-Brahmaputra Delta Cyclone' – www.britannica.com. Damages based on global storm damages averaging $55 billion between 2000 and 2014 and that cost likely increasing more than fourteen-fold come 2100. Increase in storm damage based on projected storm damage for the United States increasing from $12.4 billion per year to $142 billion per year if atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide equivalent exceed to 1,000 ppm and atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide equivalent likely exceeding 1,000 ppm if human-made greenhouse gas emissions increase at the current rate until 2060 and stop by 2070. Projection assumes human-made emissions result in the terrestrial biosphere and thawing permafrost soil releasing a further 351 ppm of carbon dioxide equivalent into the atmosphere by 2100. Average cost of storm damages between 2000 and 2014 sourced from Guha-Sapir, Below, and Hoyois – 'EM-DAT: The CRED/OFDA International Disaster Database' – www.emdat.be. Increase in average storm costs based on data sourced from Ackerman, Frank and Stanton, Elizabeth – 'The Cost of Climate Change: What We'll Pay if Global Warming Continues Unchecked' – Page 6. Terrestrial biosphere emissions sourced from Cox et al. – 'Acceleration of Global Warming Due to Carbon-Cycle Feedbacks in a Coupled Climate Model' – Pages 184 to 187. Thawing permafrost emissions based on Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5 and sourced from MacDougall et al. – 'Significant Contribution to Climate Warming from the Permafrost Carbon Feedback' – Pages 719 to 721.
  18. Cost of damages based on global storm damages averaging $55 billion between 2000 and 2014 and that cost likely increasing more than fourteen-fold come 2100. Increase in storm damage based on projected storm damage for the United States increasing from $12.4 billion per year to $142 billion per year if atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide equivalent exceed to 1,000 ppm and atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide equivalent likely exceeding 1,000 ppm if human-made greenhouse gas emissions increase at the current rate until 2060 and stop by 2070. Projection assumes human-made emissions result in the terrestrial biosphere and thawing permafrost soil releasing a further 351 ppm of carbon dioxide equivalent into the atmosphere by 2100. Average cost of storm damages between 2000 and 2014 sourced from Guha-Sapir, Below, and Hoyois – 'EM-DAT: The CRED/OFDA International Disaster Database' – www.emdat.be. Increase in average storm costs based on data sourced from Ackerman, Frank and Stanton, Elizabeth – 'The Cost of Climate Change: What We'll Pay if Global Warming Continues Unchecked' – Page 6. Terrestrial biosphere emissions sourced from Cox et al. – 'Acceleration of Global Warming Due to Carbon-Cycle Feedbacks in a Coupled Climate Model' – Pages 184 to 187. Thawing permafrost emissions based on Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5 and sourced from MacDougall et al. – 'Significant Contribution to Climate Warming from the Permafrost Carbon Feedback' – Pages 719 to 721.

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