Summary

The warming of the past century is mild compared to what could happen in the future. Additional warming is already "locked in" because of the actions of the greenhouse gases we have already emitted into the atmosphere. Temperatures will rise still more if we continue to emit at or above current levels. Higher temperatures are expected to cause flooding, drought, and more frequent episodes of extreme weather. Global warming will make the Earth a more hostile place for human beings, who will begin to fight one another for dwindling land and resources. Warming will trigger feedback mechanisms—natural forces that release more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere—and cause still more warming. The first feedback mechanism, the melting of the ice in the polar regions, is already occurring. At some point, global warming could become unstoppable.

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