If all the world's remaining fossil fuels are burned, parts of the Earth will be rendered a scorched wasteland.
That is what a new study led by a climatologist from the University of Victoria concluded after examining up-to-date extreme modeling scenarios on the effects of global warming.
The new report is in line with previous research published in September 2015, which indicated that burning all fossil fuels in the world will be enough to melt the entire ice sheet that covers Antarctica.
Lead author Katarzyna Tokarska and her colleagues estimated that massive amounts of carbon dioxide will be released into the air if all the world's reserves of coal, oil and gas are used up.
Although exact calculations of how much carbon will be released vary, researchers in this new study say that an estimated 5 trillion metric tons of carbon would be thrown into the atmosphere.
With that whopping amount, average global temperatures will rise by at least 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit) — five times the 2 degrees Celsius limit set by world leaders during the Paris climate talks.
What's more, researchers say that if fossil fuel trends go unchanged, the overwhelming 5 trillion metric tons of carbon would be reached near the end of the 22nd century. Incidentally, this number is about 10 times the 540 billion metric tons emitted since the beginning of the Industrial revolution.
In the Arctic, which is already going through extensive heating at more than double the global average, scientists say the temperatures would rise an unbelievable 15 degrees Celsius to 20 degrees Celsius (59 degrees Fahrenheit to 68 degrees Fahrenheit).
Tokarska and her team explained that some regions will become uninhabitable and there will be a profound damage on food supplies, human health and the global economy.
Additionally, precipitation patterns all over the world would change dramatically. Patterns will increase in the tropical Pacific, while it will decrease in Australia, Africa, the Amazon and the Mediterranean.
Past studies have shown that once the planet reaches the level of 2 trillion metric tons of carbon, rising temperatures will slow down.
But Tokarska and her colleagues showed that much of these findings overestimated the capacity of the ocean to absorb carbon dioxide that humans pumped into the air. They said the ocean takes up heat more slowly under those conditions, offsetting the temperature rise slowdown.
Even if we find a way to curb emissions of fossil fuels, the study said nature would still add large amounts of greenhouse gases by itself, as billions of tons of carbon are locked in the sub-Arctic permafrost.
Meanwhile, Tokarska said these climate models should not be ignored.
"Even though we have the Paris climate change agreement, so far there hasn't been any action," said Tokarska. "[This research] is a warning message."
The details of the study are published in the journal Nature Climate Change.
Photo: Dirk Duckhorn | Flickr