7th November 2013
7000 AD – How Earth will look if all the ice melts
How will Earth look if humanity fails to deal with global warming? The National Geographic Society has published an interactive map of the world in 7000 AD.
On current trends, global sea levels are likely to rise at least a metre by 2100 and possibly over three metres by 2200. While that may sound disastrous, it is nothing compared to what may happen in the more distant future. With five million cubic miles of ice, Earth has enough frozen water to ultimately raise sea levels by a terrifying 66 metres (216 ft). To see the last time Earth was ice-free, you would need to travel back in time to the Eocene epoch, 56 to 34 million years ago.
Many futurists have cited geoengineering and carbon capture as potential solutions to this crisis. Indeed, the scenario presented on FutureTimeline assumes that such action will, at some point, reverse the trend. For this reason we have not included an ice-free Earth on our timeline. However, it is interesting to speculate about what might happen if our leaders fail to get a grip on the situation and how things might look in a post-collapse world.
If civilisation does implode – with nobody fixing the CO2 problem – average global temperatures could eventually reach 26.5ºC (80ºF), a rise of 12ºC (21.6ºF) above the current level of 14.5ºC (58ºF). This could take millennia of course, but if 20th and 21st century pollution is left unchecked, with no infrastructure or system of government to deal with it, a rise of such magnitude could well happen. This becomes especially plausible when self-amplifying feedback mechanisms (such as huge methane releases) are taken into consideration.
In such a world, vast areas of land would have to be abandoned. A study by Purdue University in 2010 estimated that, under such conditions, half of the world's population would lie in areas simply uninhabitable for humans. A limit known as the "wet bulb" temperature would be exceeded in those locations – meaning certain death for anyone who stayed there. Professor Steven Sherwood, lead author of that study: "The wet-bulb limit is basically the point at which one would overheat even if they were naked in the shade, soaking wet and standing in front of a large fan."
In addition to these scorching temperatures, coastlines all over the globe would be drastically altered. The whole eastern seaboard of the United States, much of eastern China and eastern England – as well as entire countries like Denmark and the Netherlands – would be drowned. The Black Sea would merge with the Caspian Sea, while a new inland sea would form in central Australia. National Geographic has produced the following maps to illustrate this.