The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has issued a forecast saying that - unless something big changes - the level of CO2 in the Earth's atmosphere is set to rise significantly as the planet's population swells and its poorer nations start to develop their economies and use more energy.
In a new document published yesterday, the economic alliance says that the human race is expected to increase in numbers from 7+ billion today to more than 9 billion in 2050. However the global economy is expected to recover from its present troubles and quadruple in size, meaning that overall the human race will be richer and more developed.
This in turn is expected to lead to a significantly increased demand for energy, up 80 per cent from today's: and the OECD says that - so far from the predictions of Peak Oil - without massive worldwide legislative action, this heightened demand will be met by a similar mix of technologies to today's. That is, 85 per cent fossil fuel, 10 per cent renewables (much of which will be "biofuel" wood burning, perhaps not really renewable or sustainable in many cases) and the remaining 5 per cent nuclear.
All this will mean, according to the OECD's calculations, that global carbon emissions will climb by some 50 per cent and that atmospheric CO2 will climb from today's level of 394 parts per million to 685 ppm (that is a proportion of 0.0004 to 0.0007). This will see global temperatures climb by anything from 3 to 6 degrees C above pre-industrial levels, according to the OECD.
The organisation says that the increased population will also mean a shortage of fresh water and agricultural land, and air pollution can also be expected to soar. You can read all about the grim (and yet, somewhat wealthier) future that faces us - or anyway our kids - here.
There are other views of how the mid-century climate scenario might pan out. Heavyweight climate boffin Judith Curry, for instance, considers it entirely possible that the flat temperatures seen over the last decade could continue well into the middle of the century (a similar flat spell was seen from 1940 to 1980). Several major solar physicists believe that the Sun is headed into a prolonged minimum-activity period, a so-called "Maunder Minimum" where no sunspots are seen, like the one which occurred from 1645 to 1715. This was accompanied by a so-called "Little Ice Age".
Even under the standard doom scenario foreseen by the OECD, it would appear that the world's poor will be getting somewhat richer, so it's not all bad news. This is perhaps borne out by the fact that agro-boffins have done research suggesting that rising global temperatures and food prices could be good news for a lot of poor farmers, even in the more extreme high-warming scenarios.
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