How Different Will the World Be in the 2050s?

By the middle of the century, our increasing emissions will likely result in Africa being abandoned, torrential rail flooding much of China, one-third of all species going extinct and our vegetation releasing more carbon dioxide than it absorbs.

2050 – World is Getting Hotter!

Scientists have released a scathing report detailing how global greenhouse gas emissions have risen to 60 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent each year.1 This is all despite much of the world finally starting to generate energy using renewables. Scientists explain that the continued growth of the world's population, combined with an increased reliance on electrical devices, has led to the world's energy demand doubling over the last 60 years.2 As a result, the new renewable infrastructure is merely meeting new demand rather than the demand supplied by our fossil fuel power stations. On top of this, the greenhouse gas emissions produced from deforestation, livestock and manufacturing have all increased. This has led to atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide equivalent skyrocketing to 625 ppm and average global temperatures rising by some 2.2°C above pre-industrial levels.3
Forests Cut to the Ground

2051 – Runaway Global Warming Commences

Following the disasters of the last decade, a report released today confirms that the worst is yet to come. The report demonstrates that global temperature rises have led to vegetation now releasing more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than it absorbs.4 Scientists explain this is because the increased temperatures have enabled the microorganisms contained within the soil to break down the dead plant matter more rapidly.5 As a result, the world's soil is now releasing more carbon dioxide than the vegetation can absorb.6 This means that there is now no way to stop the amount of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere exceeding 950 ppm of carbon dioxide equivalent by the end of the century.7 Furthermore, it is near impossible to prevent average global temperatures from rising 4°C above pre-industrial levels by 2100.8 If that wasn't bad enough, the vegetation will continue to be release more carbon dioxide than it absorbs long after 2100. As a result, the planet's temperature will continue to rise for centuries. Scientists state the consequences of this will be catastrophic with future generations now guaranteed a near-apocalyptic future.
Increased Temperatures Have Resulted in Soils Releasing More Carbon Dioxide into the Atmosphere

2052 – Floods Leave China Devastated

A succession of massive floods and enormous landslides have forced more than 22 million Chinese citizens to evacuate their homes.9 More than 6,000 people have already lost their lives with thousands more reported missing.10 Some 25 million hectares of cropland have also been devastated resulting in a global surge in food prices.11 In China, many provinces have been forced to introduce strict rationing to ensure everybody has access to food. All Chinese military resources have now been called upon to rescue those stranded, yet, with more rain forecast, residents are being told to prepare for the worst. Climatologists explain the dramatic escalation in the number of floods and landslides is due to unprecedented increases in the amount of heavy rainfall.12 This has been caused by rises in air temperatures that enable the air to hold more moisture.13 This also means that, as temperatures continue to rise, so too will both the magnitude and the frequency of the floods. As a result, large portions of China could soon become entirely uninhabitable.14
Catastrophic Floods Leave China in Turmoil

2054 – One Third of All Species Extinct

Scientists have released a report giving details on how some three million species of life are now "committed to extinction".15 This equates to around one-third of all species on the planet and includes some of the world's most loved animals such as sea turtles,16 arctic foxes,17 Bengal tigers,18 Asian elephants and sea horses.19 The scientists who wrote the report explain how many of these life forms have taken over 3.8 billion years to evolve,20 yet in a period of some 100 years, humankind has managed to render them extinct.21 "We only hope our children have the grace to forgive us," states the study's lead scientist.
Carcass of a Now Extinct Turtle

2055 – Africa Abandoned and Left to Starve

Refugees Desperately Fleeing From Drought and Famine
Hundreds of millions of Africans are desperately trying to escape, as mass famine and extreme temperatures devastate the continent.22 More than 80% of the continent's arable land has been lost, and nearly half of the continent's wildlife has now ceased to exist.23 On top of this, expanding drylands now cover more than three-quarters of the land and unprecedented water shortages have left more than 400 million people suffering from chronic water scarcity.24 The majority of Africans are migrating on foot, scavenging for food and water along the way. Millions have been unsuccessful though, with corpses piling up on the roadsides. Leaders from the African nations have lobbied governments around the world for aid, but all requests have been ignored owing to dwindling food supplies across the globe. Already an estimated 500 million Africans have lost their lives, however, analysts state that this is just the beginning.25 As global temperatures continue to rise, it is anticipated some two billion Africans will lose their lives to chronic malnutrition by the end of the century.26

Climate Change in the 2060s

The damage caused by climate change does not stop with famine in Africa. Find out what problems 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 deforestation taken by dazb75 and reproduced under license from Adobe Stock. Minor modifications undertaken by SUPER RADICAL LTD.

Image of soil emitting gas taken by Qzian and reproduced under license from Shutterstock. Minor modifications undertaken by SUPER RADICAL LTD.

Image of floods in China created by SUPER RADICAL LTD. Town underlay taken by Rituraj Bhuyan, released on Wikimedia Commons, and reproduced under Creative Commons license CC BY-SA 2.0. Flooding overlay taken by the United States Air Force and released into the public domain. Helicopter overlay taken by the United States Navy and released into the public domain. 

Image of turtle carcass taken by Phil Slattery of the National Park Service and released into the public domain. Minor modifications undertaken by SUPER RADICAL LTD.

Image of drought in Africa created by SUPER RADICAL LTD. Image base taken by Nejron Photo and reproduced under license from Shutterstock. Special thanks to Erika Carter for her assistance creating this image.

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 global energy demand in 1990 being 73 million GWh, global energy demand in 2010 being 168 million GWh and global energy demand continuing to increase at the current rate. Global energy demand in 1990 sourced from International Energy Agency – 'World: Balances for 1990' – www.iea.org. Global energy demand in 2010 sourced from International Energy Agency – 'World: Balances for 2010' – www.iea.org.
  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. Projected temperature rise based on Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5. Sourced from Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – 'Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report' – Pages 10 to 11.
  4. Based on the terrestrial biosphere acting as an overall carbon sink until global temperatures rise by around 2°C above pre-industrial levels and global temperatures likely exceeding 2°C above pre-industrial levels come 2045 if human-made emissions continue to increase at the current rate. Terrestrial biosphere no longer acting as a carbon sink sourced from Cox et al. – 'Acceleration of Global Warming Due to Carbon-Cycle Feedbacks in a Coupled Climate Model' – Pages 184 to 187. 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. Based on Cox et al. – 'Acceleration of Global Warming Due to Carbon-Cycle Feedbacks in a Coupled Climate Model' – Page 186.
  6. Based on Cox et al. – 'Acceleration of Global Warming Due to Carbon-Cycle Feedbacks in a Coupled Climate Model' – Pages 184 to 187.
  7. Based on atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide equivalent likely exceeding 630 ppm come 2050 if human-made emissions continue to increase at the current rate, the terrestrial biosphere likely releasing a further 250 ppm of carbon dioxide equivalent into the atmosphere if global temperatures rise by more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels and thawing permafrost soil likely releasing a further 58 ppm of carbon dioxide equivalent into the atmosphere by 2100 even if all human-made greenhouse gas emissions are stopped by the end of the century. Increase in atmospheric concentrations due to human-made emissions based on Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5, including all forcing agents, 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 4.5 and sourced from MacDougall et al. – 'Significant Contribution to Climate Warming from the Permafrost Carbon Feedback' – Pages 719 to 721.
  8. Based on atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide equivalent exceeding 1,000 ppm likely leading to a global temperature rise of 4°C over pre-industrial levels. Sourced from Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – 'Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report' – Page 22.
  9. Evacuations a loose estimate based on a 50% increase in the number of evacuations that occurred as a result of the 2010 floods experienced by China. Evacuations increase based on the number of days of medium precipitation increasing by 1.5%, the number of days of large precipitation increasing by 6.0% and the number days of heavy precipitation increasing by 27.3% for each average temperature rise of 1°C experienced in China and global temperatures likely rising by 2°C above pre-industrial levels come 2050 if human-made emissions continue to increase at the current rate. Evacuations as a result of the 2010 China floods sourced from Xinhuanet – 'Floods, Landslides Leave 3,185 Dead in China This Year: MCA' – news.xinhuanet.com. Precipitation increase sourced from Chen, Huo Po – 'Projected Change in Extreme Rainfall Events in China by the End of the 21st Century Using CMIP5 Models' – Pages 1,462 to 1,472. 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.
  10. Loose estimate based on a 50% increase in the number of lives lost as a result of the 2010 floods experienced by China. Increase in the number of lives lost based on the number of days of medium precipitation increasing by 1.5%, the number of days of large precipitation increasing by 6.0% and the number days of heavy precipitation increasing by 27.3% for each average temperature rise of 1°C experienced in China and global temperatures likely rising by 2°C above pre-industrial levels come 2050 if human-made emissions continue to increase at the current rate. Number of lives lost as a result of the 2010 China floods sourced from Xinhuanet – 'Floods, Landslides Leave 3,185 Dead in China This Year: MCA' – news.xinhuanet.com. Precipitation increase sourced Chen, Huo Po – 'Projected Change in Extreme Rainfall Events in China by the End of the 21st Century Using CMIP5 Models' – Pages 1,462 to 1,472. 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. Loose estimate based on a 50% increase in crop losses due to the 2010 floods experienced by China. Increase in crop losses based on the number of days of medium precipitation increasing by 1.5%, the number of days of large precipitation increasing by 6.0% and the number days of heavy precipitation increasing by 27.3% for each average temperature rise of 1°C experienced in China and global temperatures likely rising by 2°C above pre-industrial levels come 2050 if human-made emissions continue to increase at the current rate. Extent of crop loss as a result of the 2010 China floods sourced from Xinhuanet – 'Floods, Landslides Leave 3,185 Dead in China This Year: MCA' – news.xinhuanet.com. Precipitation increase sourced Chen, Huo Po – 'Projected Change in Extreme Rainfall Events in China by the End of the 21st Century Using CMIP5 Models' – Pages 1,462 to 1,472. 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 number of days of medium precipitation increasing by 1.5%, the number of days of large precipitation increasing by 6.0% and the number days of heavy precipitation increasing by 27.3% for each average temperature rise of 1°C experienced in China and global temperatures likely rising by 2°C above pre-industrial levels come 2050 if human-made emissions continue to increase at the current rate. Sourced from Chen, Huo Po – 'Projected Change in Extreme Rainfall Events in China by the End of the 21st Century Using CMIP5 Models' – Pages 1,462 to 1,472. 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.
  13. Based on the principal causes of precipitation and sourced from Encyclopaedia Britannica – 'Humidity' – www.britannica.com.
  14. Based on more frequent and powerful floods rendering many of the areas affected during the 2010 floods uninhabitable.
  15. Based on their being an estimated 8.7 million species currently on the planet, 35% of all species likely being committed to extinction if average global temperatures rise by 2°C above pre-industrial levels and global temperatures likely rising by 2°C above pre-industrial levels come 2050 if human-made emissions continue to increase at the current rate. Number of species on the planet sourced from Mora et al. – 'How Many Species Are There on Earth and in the Ocean?' – Pages 1 to 8. Number of species committed to extinction sourced from Thomas et al. – 'Extinction Risk from Climate Change' – Pages 145 to 148. 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.
  16. Extinction of sea turtles based on projected reduced nesting and hatchling emergence success and nesting habitat loss due to climate change. Sourced from Fuentes et al. – 'Sedimentological Characteristics of Key Sea Turtle Rookeries: Potential Implications Under Projected Climate Change' – Pages 464 to 473.
  17. Based on projected habitat loss due to rising temperatures caused by climate change. Sourced from The International Union for Conservation of Nature – 'Arctic Foxes and Climate Change: Out-foxed by Arctic Warming' – Page 1.
  18. Based on no change in local conditions resulting in a projected 28-centimetre sea-level rise between 2060 and 2100, a 28-centimetre sea-level rise resulting in a 96% reduction of remaining Bengal Tiger habitats and a 28-centimetre sea-level rise also resulting in the number of Bengal Tiger breeding individuals being reduced to less than 20. Sourced from Loucks et al. – 'Sea Level Rise and Tigers: Predicted Impacts to Bangladesh's Sundarbans Mangroves' – Pages 291 to 298. 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.
  19. Extinction of elephants based on projected habitat loss due to rising temperatures caused by climate change. Sourced from Mumby et al. – 'Climatic Variation and Age-specific Survival in Asian Elephants from Myanmar' – Pages 1,131 to 1,141. Extinction of seahorses based on projected ventilation, feeding and energy reductions due to rising temperatures and ocean acidification caused by climate change. Sourced from Faleiro et al. – 'Seahorses Under a Changing Ocean: The Impact of Warming and Acidification on the Behaviour and Physiology of a Poor-Swimming Bony-armoured Fish' – Pages 1 to 7.
  20. Based on stable isotopes of carbon suggesting that the first forms of life emerged some 3.8 billion years ago. Sourced from Deamer, David – 'How Did It All Begin? The Self-Assembly of Organic Molecules and the Origin of Cellular Life.'
  21. Based on rapid increases in global carbon dioxide emissions due to fossil fuel starting at circa 1950. Sourced from Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center – 'Annual Global Fossil-Fuel Carbon Emissions - Graphics' – cdiac.ornl.gov.
  22. Extreme temperatures based on peak temperatures in Africa rising by as much as 8°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. 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 4,429. 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.
  23. Loss of arable land a loose estimate based on projections that two-thirds of Africa's arable land will be lost between 2005 and 2025 as a result of land degradation. Sourced from United Nations Economic and Social Council, Economic Commission for Africa – 'Africa Review Report on Drought and Desertification' – Page 9. Please note, the loss of this land is not solely due to climate change, but also a result of inappropriate farming systems, overgrazing, poor land management practices, lack of soil and water conservation structures and a high incidence of indiscriminate bushfires. Sourced from United Nations, Economic and Social Council, Economic Commission for Africa – 'Africa Review Report on Drought and Desertification' – Page 4. Wildlife loss based on around 50% of African mammals becoming vulnerable, endangered, critically endangered or extinct come 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. Wildlife loss also based on an estimated 25% to 42% of some 5,197 African species of plant life studied losing their natural habitat entirely by 2085 if human-made greenhouse gas emissions increase by around 35% come 2050. Mammal loss sourced from Thuiller et al. – 'Vulnerability of African Mammals to Anthropogenic Climate Change Under Conservative Land Transformation Assumptions' – Pages 424 to 440. 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. Plant habitat loss sourced from McClean et al. – 'African Plant Diversity and Climate Change' – Pages 139 to 152. For reference, mammal loss assumes full migration ability.
  24. Expansion of drylands a loose estimate based on drylands currently occupying 65% of the continent's land area and projections that global dryland will expand by 23% between 1990 to 2100 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. Dryland cover and loss sourced from Huang et al. – 'Accelerated Dryland Expansion Under Climate Change' – Pages 166 to 171. 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. Number of people suffering from chronic water scarcity a loose estimate based on a projected 459 million suffering from chronic water scarcity come 2055 if the population of Africa continues to expand and human-made greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase at the current rate. Sourced from Arnell, Nigel W. – 'Climate Change and Global Water Resources: SRES Emissions and Socio-Economic Scenarios' – Pages 40, 43 and 44.
  25. Very loose estimates based on projections that two-thirds of Africa's arable land will be lost between 2005 and 2025 in addition to the population of Africa increasing from around 1.19 billion in 2015 to around 2.48 billion in 2050. Loss of arable land sourced from United Nations, Economic and Social Council, Economic Commission for Africa – 'Africa Review Report on Drought and Desertification' – Page 9. Projected population sourced from United Nations – 'World Population Prospects: The 2015 Revision, Key Findings and Advance Tables' – Page 1. Please note, land loss is not solely due to climate change, but also a result of inappropriate farming systems, overgrazing, poor land management practices, lack of soil and water conservation structures and a high incidence of indiscriminate bushfires. Sourced from United Nations, Economic and Social Council, Economic Commission for Africa – 'Africa Review Report on Drought and Desertification' – Page 4.
  26. Very loose estimates based on projections that two-thirds of Africa's arable land will be lost between 2005 and 2025 in addition to the population increasing from around 1.19 billion in 2015 to around 4.39 billion in 2100. Loss of arable land sourced from United Nations, Economic and Social Council, Economic Commission for Africa – 'Africa Review Report on Drought and Desertification' – Page 9. Projected population sourced from United Nations – 'World Population Prospects: The 2015 Revision, Key Findings and Advance Tables' – Page 1. Please note, land loss is not solely due to climate change, but also a result of inappropriate farming systems, overgrazing, poor land management practices, lack of soil and water conservation structures and a high incidence of indiscriminate bushfires. Sourced from United Nations, Economic and Social Council, Economic Commission for Africa – 'Africa Review Report on Drought and Desertification' – Page 4.

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

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