Scientists have shockingly warned that within our generation "whatever climate we were used to will be a thing of the past." Ecosystems and economies in the tropics could be left devastated within a generation, experts have predicted, saying "changes will be coming soon."
The catastrophic impacts could leave many species facing extinction, they warned, as "unprecedented climates" irreversibly affect the world's poorest and most vulnerable countries.
Researchers showed that current levels of greenhouse gas emissions would lead to a transformation of climate around the world and unprecedented changes as early as 2047. But in the most vulnerable regions the impact could be felt much sooner, with the researches starkly stating "the changes are already upon us."
Since the tropics house most of the world's population and contribute significantly to global food supplies, the social and economic impact would also be serious and far-reaching. "The results shocked us," said lead researcher Dr Camilo Mora, from the University of Hawaii. "Regardless of the scenario, changes will be coming soon. Within my generation, whatever climate we were used to will be a thing of the past."
The scientists used 39 climate simulation models to look at the likely effects of global warming in different locations around the world. Projections over the next 100 years showed that the average region on Earth was predicted to experience a radically different climate by 2047.
But the tropics, which are especially vulnerable to small changes in climate, were forecast to cross the climate departure point a decade earlier than anywhere else on Earth. The areas also happen to be the poorest regions on Earth – and those least able to cope with the effects of climate change.
"Our results suggest that countries first impacted by unprecedented climates are the ones with the least capacity to respond," said co-author Dr Ryan Longman, also from the University of Hawaii. "Ironically, these are the countries that are least responsible for climate change in the first place."
Coral reefs such as this one in Indonesia are under threat from "unprecidented" climate change
Commenting on the findings, published in the journal Nature, US expert Dr Ken Caldeira from the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington D.C. said: "This work demonstrates that we are pushing the ecosystems of the world out of the environment in which they evolved into wholly new conditions that they may not be able to cope with," he said.
"Extinctions are likely to result. Some ecosystems may be able to adapt, but for others, such as coral reefs, complete loss of not only individual species but their entire integrity is likely."
According to a recent survey, 40 percent of the ocean's corals have already died in the last 50 years as a result of pollution, destructive fishing and climate change.
Continued destruction will invariably have a negative impact on the 500 million people worldwide who rely on reefs for their livelihood and sustenance. The worrying news follows a major international report on climate science by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) in which scientists revealed they are more certain than ever that humans are causing global warming.
The report by the world’s foremost authority on the greenhouse effect is expected to show even greater certainty that human activity is causing the majority of the warming the planet has seen since the 1950s, up from a 90% certainty in the last IPCC study in 2007 to 95% in this assessment.