The Future Climate Change

Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs) are scenarios that describe how Earth’s climate could potentially change in the future based on greenhouse gas concentrations emitted into the atmosphere. Each of the scenarios makes a different assumption about future greenhouse concentrations; some are low, while others are high. Climate modelers can use concentrations from differing emissions scenarios to estimate the effect this will have on near-surface air and water temperatures.

The RCP scenarios’ names correspond with their radiative forcing target level for 2100. For example, in a scenario named “RCP 2.6”, the future radiative balance would be changed by 2.6 W/m2, causing Earth to warm to restore this balance. Radiative forcing is the effect that various components of the atmosphere (i.e greenhouse gases and air pollutants, solar irradiance) have on the balance of incoming and outgoing radiation. In other words, the radiative forcing estimates refer to changes in atmospheric heat caused by greenhouse gases and other forcing agents.

Future Climate Change Predictions

There are numerous factors to account for when assessing future climate change. The amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is perhaps the most significant among these factors because the atmosphere’s temperature responds to the total concentration of greenhouse gases. Therefore, RCP projections assume that temperature is linearly related to the cumulative total of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.

By calculating the changes in the atmosphere’s components, predictions can be made about the temperature changes that would result. Other factors that must be considered for reliable future climate change assessments include developments in adaptation technologies, changes in land use, future energy production, population growth, and economic growth.

Some scenarios are optimistic, in that they predict future emissions to be much lower than they are today. The worst-case scenarios, on the other hand, are pathways that have the highest estimated future greenhouse gas concentrations; and therefore the highest temperature predictions.

RCP 2.6 is an example of a more optimistic scenario. RCP 2.6 assumes that humanity implements a variety of technologies and strategies for curbing emissions while also making ambitious emissions reductions across sectors by 2100. RCP 2.6 refers to the concentration of greenhouse gases that cause global warming at an average of 2.6 W/m2 (watts per square meter). RCP 2.6 results in the least amount of global warming of all the RCPs.

RCP 8.5, the so-called “business as usual scenario”, has the highest global mean temperature increases of all pathway scenarios. RCP8.5 is a high greenhouse gas emissions scenario that is likely to be the outcome if humanity makes few or no concerted efforts to decrease emissions, resulting in a warming average of 8.5 watts per square meter globally. Projected changes in climate under RCP 8.5 will be more severe than under RCP 2.6.

There are four main RCPs that extend to the end of the century (2100). RCP 4.5 and RCP 6 are intermediate scenarios between 2.6 (lowest) and 8.5 (highest). The RCP estimates are far from exact, as there are far too many societal and climatological uncertainties to factor into assessments. In reality, future greenhouse gas emissions can fall anywhere on the spectrum between RCP 2.6 and RCP 8.5, or perhaps outside the boundaries of these projections entirely. Also, no one can be sure exactly how sensitive Earth’s climate might be to increased concentrations of greenhouse gases and other forcing agents.

Inherent uncertainties aside, these limited sets of scenarios allow for a common language and way of thinking about future changes in climate for policymakers and climate modeling teams.

Freshwater and Climate Change

Freshwater systems provide usable water for human consumption, technological development, and agriculture, while also serving as habitats for aquatic species. Therefore, freshwater systems are of crucial economic and ecological value. A 2021 study titled, ” “The Importance of Indirect Effects of Climate Change Adaptations On Alpine and Pre-Alpine Freshwater Systems” asserts that human-made changes to water hydrology and pollution from sewer outflows and agriculture chemicals are detrimental to freshwater systems.

What Is Freshwater?

Rivers, reservoirs, and streams are examples of freshwater systems. Freshwater is a subset of Earth’s water which is significantly less salty than marine waters (like seas and oceans). The United States Geological Survey, a branch dedicated to science within the United States Department of the Interior, defines freshwater as “water containing less than 1,000 milligrams per liter of dissolved solids, most often salt.” Though freshwater is renewed through the water cycle, it is a finite resource. If freshwater is used more quickly than it is naturally replenished, water security risks may be enhanced.

Research Method and Design

Authors of “The Importance of Indirect Effects of Climate Change Adaptations On Alpine and Pre-Alpine Freshwater Systems”, regard higher frequency of extreme meteorological events and increased temperatures as “direct effects” of climate change. These direct effects adversely influence the state and quality of aquatic regions. Direct effects also interact with human responses to climate change and produce “indirect effects”.

So-called indirect effects refer to human practices that are aimed at climate change mitigation. Indirect effects include land-use changes, alterations to freshwater systems, and increasing irrigation practices. Authors suggest that “indirect effects may, at least in the short term, overrun the impact of direct climate change on water bodies.” Though all biomes are predicted to be impacted by climate change, freshwater systems in alpine and pre-alpine regions may be disproportionately at risk due to agriculture and hydropower plants.

Hydropower installations in freshwater networks can fragment or isolate certain species populations which are ill-adapted for the changes in water flow and perpetuate biodiversity loss. By modifying the hydrology of freshwater systems, water usage for energy production can compound the direct effects of climate change to aquatic flora and fauna.

Agriculture can disturb freshwater systems as well, but in a much different way than hydropower plants. Climate change can intensify extreme weather event trends, such as floods, storms, and droughts; these effects can drive diminished crop yields. In the interest of mitigating decreased crop production brought on by climate change, agriculturalists may expand irrigation infrastructure or enhance fertilizer use. These adaptations can exacerbate the consequences which are already affecting crop growth cycles.

Conclusion Drawing

Authors of the 2021 review claim that “rain-fed dairy farming is currently the most predominant form of agriculture, but in the future, these grasslands may become more and more dependent on irrigation”. Redirecting water for irrigation use can potentially limit the quantity of water available in freshwater ecosystems. Variability in weather regimes may contribute to further dependence on water from irrigation (rather than from rainfall) in the future. Some of the responses that agriculturalists are expected to as a response to a changing climate pose risks to freshwater systems. Policymakers must account for indirect impacts to alleviate worsening the ecological status and water quality within aquatic environments.


COP26 is the 26th United Nations Climate Change conference which took place this November 2021, in Glasgow. This conference was supposed to accelerate action towards achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (limiting global average temperature rise to well below 2℃ by the middle of the 21st century). According to the Paris Climate Agreement, participant nations are also encouraged to pursue efforts to limit warming to 1.5℃ relative to preindustrial levels by mid-century.

COP26 was to be the latest installment in this ongoing conversation between world leaders, corporations, and intergovernmental committees.

The Glasgow Pact

Toward the end of the 2 weeks United Nations Climate Change conference, a change was made to the wording of the Glasgow Pact. The phasing out of coal was changed to the phasing down of coal. The latter wording can be found in the Glasgow Pact document. Sources reveal that this change was first proposed by representatives from India, and garnered support from China. As coal combusts, several airborne pollutants are released, including sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon dioxide, particulates, and ash. Coal burning is a prominent element of climate destabilization, as it contributes to global warming and increasingly acidic oceans. Though COP26 is the first climate agreement to explicitly mention coal, the tentative promise to phase down coal use this century is not assuring.

The Glasgow Pact “emphasizes the need to mobilize climate finance from all sources to reach the level needed to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, including significantly increasing support for developing country Parties, beyond USD 100 billion per year…”. As for the US$100 billion per year by 2020 pledge, first proposed in 2009, the Glasgow Pact “notes with deep regret that the goal” has not yet been met, but secures no further progress on this front. This is a failure to small island nations and countries with highly vulnerable economies that are already feeling the effects of climate change and are predicted to be disproportionately affected due to less resilient economies.

Protests outside of COP26 erupted before the final event officially concluded. Hundreds of civil society representatives were dissatisfied with the conclusions reached during the climate convention. Even more frustrations have been articulated online.

The 7th subtitle, “Implementation“, makes no explicit commitments

The “implementation” section of the Glasgow pact likewise makes no explicit commitments. Without the implementation of targets, meaningful action can not be achieved. That said, more promises are likewise insufficient answers to immediate to answer immediate concerns for relief and infrastructure investments. COP26 has largely failed small island nations and those with emerging economies in this regard.

Places Most Affected by Climate Change

coastal city, grass and trees

The lowest-income nations have economies that are the least capable of adapting to climate change’s effects. Dealing with decreases in crop yields and infrastructure damage as a result of climate change is more difficult in countries that have vulnerable economies because people in these regions tend to be more dependent on agriculture and other contributions from nature, such as fishing or logging. Increases in weather extremes could also threaten tourism in small island developing states. Under the influence of climate change, the least developed communities are expected to have a harder time rebuilding with limited finances and resources.

On the other hand, the countries most capable of adapting to climate change are those that have relatively high incomes and low economic vulnerability. These nations are more equipped to deal with climate destabilization than low-income countries with high economic vulnerability. This is because higher-income nations can afford to invest in net-zero transition projects, adaptation technologies, and more resilient infrastructure.


The Conference of Parties (COP), established by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), is a convention of governmental representatives and scientific experts for discussing climate change. COP26 will be the next COP gathering and will take place in November 2021. World leaders participating in COP26 will discuss topics ranging from mitigation strategies to extensive economic reforms.

Climate finances are the funds planned to be provided to highly vulnerable nations to aid in addressing climate change and its impacts. Funds like the Green Climate Fund were created as financial support systems that lower-income nations could draw from for new initiatives and adaptation. Alternative methods for climate finance include loans, export credits, and government donations. The pledge for $100 billion a year (by 2020) for developing nations has been discussed as a central issue since 2009.

COP26 is an opportunity for relatively high-income nations to sort out the details of their pending commitments. They are the primary beneficiaries of fossil fuel use and are therefore liable for the consequences associated with climate destabilization. The territories that make up the Group of 20 (G20) generate more than half of the world’s anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions and make up most of the world’s gross domestic product. These nations then have the greatest responsibility to help support people in highly vulnerable regions and small island states.

Harvard University Will Divest Its $42B From Fossil Fuels

students holding divest Harvard sign
students holding divest Harvard sign

Harvard University, one of the richest and most prestigious colleges in the United States of America, released a statement disclosing that it will end all investments in fossil fuels. According to Harvard’s self-published news update, climate change is a “consequential threat”. Harvard goes on to reference the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Sixth Assessment Report. The IPCC’s sixth assessment is its latest report that outlines the physical evidence and environmental tolls of climate change.

To some extent, its apparent that Harvard recognizes the emerging need to decarbonize on an international scale. Earlier this year (2021), Harvard Management Company (HMC) announced that it had already ceased all direct investments in companies that pursued fossil fuels. Harvard admits that HMC has legacy investments that are still indirectly tied up in “private equity funds with holdings in fossil fuel industries”.

According to Harvard, HMC has no interest in renewing these legacy investments once the relevant partnerships end or are liquidated. If Harvard and HMC are in fact serious about being conducive to the clean energy transition, then they are setting a standard for other institutions and companies to follow.

Beyond HMC’s vow to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions within its own operations by July 2023, its also collaborating with the Carbon Disclosure Project, Principles for Responsible Investment, and Climate Action 100+. These organizations all, in some way or another, help manage carbon and fossil fuel outputs from governments and other entities. Students, athletes, and Harvard’s sports attendees have been floating banners that read “Divest Harvard” on them. Tweets from Al Gore, to Environmental expert, Bill McKibben, highlight just how celebrated Harvard’s news about ending new investments is.

Greta Thunberg: UK Is Lying About Progress On Climate Change

Greta Thunberg

Greta Thunberg is a prominent 18 year old environmental activist and climate change communicator. The Swedish-born activist is generally well-known for her fearlessly forthright speeches, and her “skolstrejk för klimatet” School Strike for Climate. Greta Thunberg has just made a public video post claiming that the United Kingdom’s (UK) claims about climate change mitigation are lies. If Britain is in fact guilty of “creative carbon accounting”, then its future emissions sanctions could be too lenient.

Why Greta Thunberg Accuses UK of Lying

Greta Thunberg begins her UNICEF video post by plainly stating that “there is a lie that the UK is a world climate leader and that they have reduced their carbon emissions by 44% since 1944, or whatever”. Thunberg’s post follows an announcement, made by Boris Johnson, that the UK has reduced its carbon dioxide emissions “by about 42 percent on 1990 levels”. British politicians have a long history of proclaiming that the UK is the world’s gold standard with respect to climate change mitigation. This may be partly because the UK is the first country to enact legally permitted reduction targets for carbon emissions. The United Kingdom was also the first country to pass a net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions law (2019) to be achieved by 2050.

To paraphrase, Thunberg goes on to say that all emissions have to be included in GHG assessments; otherwise, your carbon emissions count come out to be “much nicer”. Thunberg is suggesting that the UK has not been accounting for all of its emissions, rendering its assessments ultimately inaccurate. Presenting false climate credentials is a serious charge, especially considering the emerging pertinence of climate crisis. Greta Thunberg says that if you include “aviation, shipping, outsourcing, imports of consumption and the burning of biomass, it [emissions reduction statistics] doesn’t really look that good”.

What Is Carbon Accounting?

Carbon accounting is the quantification of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions statistics that organizations use to set goals for future reduction targets. Emissions statistics help organizations track their Paris Agreement-compliance. The Paris Agreement is a binding treaty agreement between the 196 parties that volunteered to take part in 2015 at the first United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP21. With COP26 (2021) around the corner, Thunberg’s announcement may serve as a warning for us all to be scrupulous of the emission data that organizations and governments report.

Cowspiracy Facts

cow wi
dairy cow

The 2014 documentary Cowspiracy illuminates the connection between the global climate crisis and modern farming techniques. The hour and a half film follows an environmentalist, Kip Anderson, on his search for answers regarding the most pressing environmental issues. His research leads him to stumble upon a scientific consensus: the use of animals in agriculture is among the leading factors that influence environmental degradation, including ocean dead zones, rapid species extinctions, habitat loss, Amazon rainforest destruction, water overconsumption and land misuse.

However, Anderson grows frustrated as he discovers that some environmental organizations and other conservationists (Greenpeace, Sierra Club, Surfrider Foundation, Rainforest Action Network, and Oceana) refuse to be truthful about the role of animal agriculture in climate change.

The Silence of Environmentalists

Greenhouse gases such as methane, carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide contribute to global warming. Each of these natural gases are heavily produced in industrial factory farming practices, where forests are cleared, thereby robbing landscapes of not only their carbon sequestering potential, but also of innumerable wildlife species. Fossil fuel emissions come from fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, from eccentric fermentation in ruminants and from manure management.

Bruce Hamilton: Sierra Club

Bruce Hamilton of the Sierra Club describes the present rate of greenhouse gas proliferation as exceeding levels ever before seen or estimated. This is hardly news. However, during his terse interview, Bruce Hamilton declared that other sources of methane and carbon dioxide should be prioritized above agriculture farming. Is Hamilton suggesting that some other economic sector has greater overall emissions than agriculture does? Doe he know agriculture’s impact estimates should include transport and energy generation? The Sierra Club is an organization that partly focuses promoting sustainable energy and limiting global warming. As the Deputy Executive Director of the Sierra Club, Bruce Hamilton should know.

Ann Notthoff: Natural Resources Defense Counsil

The Natural Resources Defense Council’s Ann Notthoff says that energy production and transportation are the major sources of environmental degradation. The woman then laughs when pressed about livestock’s contribution. She jokingly says, “that’s cow farts… I think that’s what that is”.

Chad Nelson: Surfrider

Dr. Chad Nelson of Surfrider notes that heavy metals from automated vehicles and herbicides and pesticides as sources of ocean pollution. When Kip Anderson questions Dr. Nelson about the influence of animal agriculture on oceanic pollution, Nelson simply remarks that California’s research teams do not see much evidence of it. A pattern is made apparent for the Cowspiracy audience. Environmental organizations do not wish to point the finger directly at factory farming.

The Cost of Speaking Up

In some cases, speaking out against factory farming or animal agriculture has cost activists their lives. The film mentions the tragic assassination of Sister Dorothy Stang, an American nun who was murdered in 2005 for her activism against cattle ranching. According to the film, more than 1,100 environmental campaigners were killed over a 20 year period in Brazil for animal activism. Journalist Will Potter believes that environmentalists are considered terrorists by the FBI. Will Anderson, the founder of Greenpeace Alaska, believes that most environmental institutions are failing us by neglecting to mention the role of human diets and farming practices in climate change.

Activism comes with a cost. In some cases, the cost is lost revenue or a reputation blow. The fact is, agriculture corporations are powerfully influential due to the amount of profit that they reap and the jobs that they supply. As staples in global economies, these organizations are capable of preventing activists from being publicly critical. Speaking up could result in funding loss, loss of business, alienation or worse.

IPCC 6th Assessment Report Summary

flags in wind

August 9, 2021, the United Nations’ official climate experts committee released an updated report on climate change’s physical evidence and a list of solutions for policy makers. Since the International Panel on Climate Change’s last report, the AR5 (released in 2014), UN experts have made modifications in their modeling techniques and data analysis regarding anthropogenic climate change.

What Did the 2022 IPCC Report Say?

The AR6 reports, with varying degrees of confidence, that the last few decades have been marked by increasing average surface temperature (0.8°C to 1.3°C for the years 1850-1900 to the years 2010-2019), increasing precipitation levels, melting ice sheets in the Antarctic and Greenland, rising upper-ocean temperatures (depth of 0-700 meters) and rises in global sea levels. UN climate experts believe that human influence has contributed to some long-term weather changes.

Researchers also provide reconstructed data that simulates the mean surface temperature over the last 100,000 years. It is within the last 2,000 years that an unprecedented spike occurs in surface temperatures. Climate models suggest that rises in greenhouse gas levels, land use, ozone use, and other human activities help explain the rise in average global surface temperatures. The concentrations of carbon dioxide and methane exceed natural multi-millennial levels; these natural gases happen to be some of the primary products of human industrial activities, such as agriculture, organic waste, and energy production.

UN Experts Will Release Landmark Report On Climate Change

AR6 2021 landmark report with official UN logo

The impacts of climate change are already happening in many parts of the world. Floods in Europe and wildfires in western American states could be a preview of what we can expect from future climate shifts. The world’s leading climate scientists and experts are expected to release a landmark report before COP26, which will take place in Glasgow beginning November 1st, 2021.

The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a United Nations environment and climate organization will conduct the landmark report. Once published, the report is expected to be the most comprehensive and up-to-date analysis of the science of global warming since the IPCC’s 2013 report. This latest report will outline large-scale climate action solutions to reduce emissions to limit global warming to about 2 degrees Celsius compared to that of preindustrial levels. The energy and agriculture sectors have to be the first to institute major changes, particularly in developed countries, such as the United States, China, and India.

Research conducted by the IPCC confirms that if we can limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (compared to that of preindustrial levels), some of the worst effects of climate change can still be avoided, including tipping points. Tipping points are the estimated climatological thresholds that have far-reaching, and in some cases, irreversible results once exceeded.

IPBES/IPCC: Tackling Biodiversity Loss & Climate Change

IPDES workshop on diversity

The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) has released an assessment on the interrelation between biodiversity, shifts in climate, health, food, water, and energy. This peer-reviewed report is the result of a four-day virtual workshop between Scientific Steering Committee-selected experts chosen by the IPBES and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This workshop report is the first cooperative analysis undertaken by the two intergovernmental organizations.

What Is the Objective of the IPBES Report?

The objective of the report is to inform policy decision making in the context of the 2050 Vision for Biodiversity and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. IPCC and IPBES scientists sate that climate change and biodiversity loss are twin threats that are mutually reinforcing. “Strong interlinkages and interdependencies exist among the globally agreed goals of food and water security, health for all, affordable and clean energy, protecting biodiversity on land and in the oceans, and combating climate change, among other Sustainable Development Goals”, according to the IPCC and IPBES report.

The IPBES Report is essentially a biodiversity assessment designed to explain the relationship between biodiversity samples and human well-being. Understanding biodiversity, and the extent to which humans depend on the natural world is necessary for understanding precisely how import it is to protect the natural world. The various species that belong to ecological communities are composed of millions of different gene combinations, and those species can be represented in several kinds of ecosystems. The IPBES’ assessment will highlight the degree of resilience that biologically diverse ecosystems have and what type of feedbacks they experience due to human activity.

Specific Goals Outlined In the IPBES Report

Other available actions for climate change mitigation identified in the nexus report include: reducing deforestation (and forest degradation), improving sustainable agricultural and forestry practices to promote carbon storage and enhancing biodiversity, phasing out over-fertilization, and implementing plant-based eating regimens (in rich or the most well-off nations).

Michigan’s Plan to Decarbonize from Liesl Clark

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) is a department of Michigan state for environmental issues. The EGLE responds to reports of pollution and enforces laws and permit conditions that protect public health. The EGLE is also licensed to perform inspections in certain facilities to ensure that they are compliant with various environmental regulations.

Interviewing Liesl Clark of Michigan

In the first week of May 2021, Ken Haddad, Digital Content Manager and newsletter writer for interviewed Liesl Clark, director of the EGLE and the chair of the Michigan Climate Council. The conversation focused on Michigan’s plan to become carbon neutral and limit total greenhouse gas emissions. As of 2016, Michigan ranked as one of the top 10 states in America for total emissions.

Naturally, Ken Haddad asked about Michigan’s goals for emissions and how they aligned with reaching a net-zero future. Liesl Clark, in response, said that Michigan’s goals for greenhouse gas emissions centered around improving conditions for human safety, and also the desire to capitalize on America’s transforming energy economy. The Executive Directive 2020-10 sets the goal of decarbonization in Michigan by 2050, and a 28% reduction below 1990 levels in greenhouse gas emissions by 2025. Clark goes on to mention that these goals are among the top priorities for the state and that they’re based on suggestions by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Why The Need for Climate Change Action in Michigan

Haddad asks Liesl Clark what she thinks the biggest threat is posed by climate change. In response, Clark states that the Midwest is experiencing increased dramatic weather patterns, such as floods, heavy downpours, and extreme heat (the Director and chairwoman also references the degradation of water and air quality).

Haddad chose to end part one of this interview with a question about Michigan’s economic future: “How can Michigan use the battle against climate change as an economic driver?”.

Clark believes that “a key area of economic opportunity for Michigan is in transportation.” This is because the transportation sector in Michigan is responsible for 29% of total emissions. Therefore, mobility will be a determining factor in Michigan’s path toward an eco-friendly future. The EGLE works closely with the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity’s Office of Future Mobility and Electrification. Presumably, this partnership will support innovations and job growth that have sustainability in mind.