A Map Shows What Happens When Our World Gets Four Degrees Warmer: The Colorado River Dries Up, Antarctica Urbanizes, Polynesia Vanishes

Human­i­ty faces few larg­er ques­tions than what, exact­ly, to do about cli­mate change — and, in a sense larg­er still, what cli­mate change even means. We’ve all heard a vari­ety of dif­fer­ent future sce­nar­ios laid out, each of them based on dif­fer­ent data. But data can only make so much of an impact unless trans­lat­ed into a form with which the imag­i­na­tion can read­i­ly engage: a visu­al form, for instance, and few visu­al forms come more tried and true than the map.

And so “lead­ing glob­al strate­gist, world trav­el­er, and best-sell­ing author” Parag Khan­na has cre­at­ed the map you see above (view in a larg­er for­mat here), which shows us the state of our world when it gets just four degrees cel­sius warmer. “Microne­sia is gone – sunk beneath the waves,” writes Big Think’s Frank Jacobs in an exam­i­na­tion of Khan­na’s map. “Pak­istan and South India have been aban­doned. And Europe is slow­ly turn­ing into a desert.”

But “there is also good news: West­ern Antarc­ti­ca is no longer icy and unin­hab­it­able. Smart cities thrive in new­ly green and pleas­ant lands. And North­ern Cana­da, Scan­di­navia, and Siberia pro­duce boun­ti­ful har­vests to feed the hun­dreds of mil­lions of cli­mate refugees who now call those regions home.”

Not quite as apoc­a­lyp­tic a cli­mate-change vision as some, to be sure, but it still offers plen­ty of con­sid­er­a­tions to trou­ble us. Lands in light green, accord­ing to the map’s col­or scheme, will remain or turn into “food-grow­ing zones” and “com­pact high-rise cities.” Yel­low indi­cates “unin­hab­it­able desert,” brown areas “unin­hab­it­able due to floods, drought, or extreme weath­er.” In dark green appear lands with “poten­tial for refor­esta­tion,” and in red those places that ris­ing sea lev­els have ren­dered utter­ly lost.

Those last include the edges of many coun­tries in Asia (and all of Poly­ne­sia), as well as the area where the south­east of the Unit­ed States meets the north­east of Mex­i­co and the north and south coasts of South Amer­i­ca. But if you’ve ever want­ed to live in Antarc­ti­ca, you won’t have to move into a research base: with­in a cou­ple of decades, accord­ing to Khan­na’s data, that most mys­te­ri­ous con­ti­nent could become unrec­og­niz­able and “dense­ly pop­u­lat­ed with high-rise cities,” pre­sum­ably with their own hip­ster quar­ters. But where best to grow the ingre­di­ents for its avo­ca­do toast?

Any­one inter­est­ed in Parag Khan­na’s map will want to check out his book, Con­nec­tog­ra­phy: Map­ping the Future of Glob­al Civ­i­liza­tion.

via Big Think

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Glob­al Warm­ing: A Free Course from UChica­go Explains Cli­mate Change

A Cen­tu­ry of Glob­al Warm­ing Visu­al­ized in a 35 Sec­ond Video

Ani­ma­tions Show the Melt­ing Arc­tic Sea Ice, and What the Earth Would Look Like When All of the Ice Melts

132 Years of Glob­al Warm­ing Visu­al­ized in 26 Dra­mat­i­cal­ly Ani­mat­ed Sec­onds

Music for a String Quar­tet Made from Glob­al Warm­ing Data: Hear “Plan­e­tary Bands, Warm­ing World”

A Song of Our Warm­ing Plan­et: Cel­list Turns 130 Years of Cli­mate Change Data into Music

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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Comments (7)
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  • Rebou Chage says:

    Is there a way to view a larg­er copy of the map, as it is it’s not much use.
    Go on, give it anoth­er try.

  • Joan says:

    Give your­self anoth­er try and care to read the arti­cle. You’ll get a sur­prise…

  • Geoff Berry says:

    With so much melt­ed ice as lot of areas, such as Flori­da, Nether­lands, Lon­don, New York and much more would be under water. You haven’t men­tioned this.

  • Mike Hensen says:

    Just because north­ern Cana­da is warmer doesn’t mean grow­ing crops on bedrock will be easy, the Cana­di­an Shield is rock with a few inch­es of moss, not much for crops.

  • Laurie Mann says:

    Geoff Berry — the red parts of the coastal areas indi­cates areas like­ly to be under­wa­ter. I think that’s pret­ty clear.

    I do believe in human-dri­ven cli­mate change, but I don’t see all of the tem­per­ate zone becom­ing one big desert. I read an analy­sis a few years ago that pre­dict­ed, in the future, much of Pennsylvania/Maryland/West Virginia/Ohio would be like Alaba­ma (warmer, wet­ter, rare win­ter freezes, alli­ga­tors and bugs). Here in West­ern Penn­syl­va­nia, it’s been prob­a­bly a decade since we’ve had much of a drought. Our back yard is now marshy all year around when it used to just be marshy in the spring. About every four years, it’s warm enough dur­ing the win­ter that the ground does­n’t freeze any­more.

  • Jessie says:

    So hard to see this map on mobile!! Would have been so help­ful to have been able to click on the image, no side­bar con­tent tak­ing up 20% of the real estate and maybe some close up map seg­ments. Such a bum­mer :(

  • David says:

    Mike Hensen: I doubt they have the slight­est clue what the Cana­di­an Shield is or how to grow a crop.

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