The 365 Ways Blog

Michael Norton is author of "365 Ways to Change the World", which provides an issue for each day of the year, interesting facts, inspiring case studies of people doing things to address the issue and ideas for action. Originally published in the UK, versions with local content have been published in Australia, Canada, India, South Africa and the USA. To find out more visit our website:

20 May 2007

Six degrees

You will have heard of "six degrees of separation". The next six degrees is six degrees of global warming. Read on. It may want to make you do something right now.

It’s taken the world just a few years to wake up to the threat of global warming. But it may be too late. Many of the effects of a warming world are creating positive feedback loops. For example as the surface ice melts in polar regions in the warmer summers, the pools of water absorb the sunlight whereas the ice that existed before reflected it.

Mark Lynas wrote a wonderful book called “High Tide” when he visited and reported on some of the hotspots of global warming, His new book, “Six Degrees”, was written in an Oxford library where he researched the studies that had been done on the impact on the world of a warming climate to summarise the results in a series of scenarios for each further degree of temperature rise, He has tried to be cautious and reasoned rather than apocalyptic, and retains a faith that we can halt the warming process at around 2 degrees. But the facts may show that we have already got beyond the point of no return. The question may be no longer whether it will happen, but how long it will take to happen.

Read “Six Degrees” by Mark Lynas. It is a more serious, more factual and more important book than Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” – which is a great book for persuading Americans to accept the argument for global warming, where people have been slower to accept what science is telling us.

This is what is likely to happen with each one degree rise in temperature.

One degree:
• Deserts invade the high plains of the US causing severe agricultural loss from Ontario to Texas.
• Mount Kilimanjaro loses all its ice.
• The Gulf Stream switches off, plunging Britain and Europe into icy winter cold.
• Coral reefs are wiped out, with the Great Barrier Reef largely destroyed by 2030.
• Island nations submerge under rising seas.

Two degrees
• Greenland tips into irreversible melt, accelerating sea level rise and threatening coastal cities around the world.
• Polar bears, walruses and other ice-dependant marine animals in the Arctic become extinct.
• Drought, fire and searing heat strike the Mediterranean basin.
• Declining snowfields threaten water supplies in California.
• A third of species worldwide face extinction.

Three degrees
• A permanent El Nino grips the Pacific, causing weather chaos around the world and drought inn the Amazon.
• Agriculture shifts to the far North; Norway’s growing season becomes like Southern England today. But with heat and drought in the tropics and sub-tropics, the world tips into net food deficit (people will starve).
• The whole Amazonian ecosystem collapses in as conflagration of fire and destruction.
• Hurricanes in the tropics are half a category stronger than today (remember Katrina).
• The Indus river runs dry, forcing migration and a possible nuclear conflict over water between India and Pakistan.

Four degrees
• Most of the Nile Delta and a third of Bangladesh threatened by rising seas.
• West Antarctic ice sheet potentially collapses; sea levels rise by 5 metres as a result.
• Southern Europe desertifies, and becomes like the Sahara. Migration North becomes a source of conflict.
• All glaciers disappear in the Alps.
• Permafrost melt in Siberia releases billions of tons of CO2 and methane, spiralling global warming upwards.

Five degrees
• The Earth is hotter than at any time for 55 million years.
• Methane hydrate is released from underneath the oceans, sparking tsunamis in coastal regions and pushing global warming into an unstoppable spiral.
• Much of the world is now uninhabitable.

Six degrees
• Mass extinction. The Permian extinction 251 million years ago was associated with this level of temperature and wiped out 90 of the world’s species.
• Huge fireballs sweep the planet as methane hydrate fireballs ignite.
• Seas turn anoxic (without oxygen) and release poisonous hydrogen sulphide.
• Humanity’s very survival is in question.
with thanks to Mark Lynas


Blogger Shamus said...

As a retired rocket scientist (MSFC) I have been keeping up reasonably well with the global warming situation and would like to add a few comments.

In general -- I agree with most of what has been postulated here in the "6 degrees" thinking. I also agree with most of what AlGore and his "Inconvenient Truth" have put forward, the book, his DVD vido and the update.

There is one factor -- relatively new -- and that is the cause and effects of deep ocean Methane-Hydrate. I am convinced in my studies that the huge amounts of Methane (CH4) being leached out of the sea bottoms is the major cause for our current Global Warming episode.

Geological research has indicated that the long term cycle of Global Warming is a 200,000 year repetitive event cycle. As the world goes through this cycle the production of the deep ocean Methane-Hydrate is turned on and off with the changes in water lever, salinity, pressure, and temperature. This set of changes appears to be the actual cause and effect of Global Warming and NOT a man-made effect involving man-made CO2.

If you will Google Methane-Hydrate you can read many scientific articles covering research and findings that have been made since the "discovery" of deep sea Methane-Hydrate in about 1985.

JCSpilman aka Shamus

2:49 am  
Blogger Shamus12017 said...

I woul like to add that this 200,000 year cycle has also been a significant "extinctsion cycle". Where homo sapians stand within this current cycle remains to be seen. At best, we should be prepared for the worst. It will not occur in our lifetimes, but perhaps it will occur in our great grand children's lifetimes.

We may need to start relocation rather deep underground.


10:07 pm  
Blogger Shamus12017 said...

One additional observation and I will switch to some other subject. It appears that there is another correlation factor for consideration. This one is the north/south shift in the earth's magnetic field.

This is roughly every 800,000 years! The next maximum/shift seems to be wellunderway at the present time. Each time the shift occurs the earth looses its protection from solar eruptions. Whether the 800,000 year magnetic shift correlates with the 200,000 year global warming is problematical. It is, however, a serious disruption to the "normal" state of affairs.

I believe the two are directly related, one to the other, but know of no way to prove the concept. Whether Global Warming or Magnetic Shift are related -- either one would be severe and both, at the same time, would be catastrophic.

12:50 am  

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