Georgia Institute of Technology Georgia Institute of Technology

Research Horizons

Georgia Tech's Research Horizons Magazine
Menu

Coming Soon: Climate Change Impacts

Google Earth image of oceans

Photo: Google Earth

For the 70,000 residents of the Marshall Islands, global climate change isn’t a theoretical concern with far-off consequences. The island nation is no more than 6 feet above the Pacific Ocean, and because sea levels are already rising, the nation’s leaders have made plans to move the entire population to higher ground in the Fiji Islands.

Some impacts of global climate change will appear much sooner than others with only moderate increases in global temperature. For example, while rising sea level may one day threaten the subway lines of New York City, it will have effects much sooner in other parts of the world. Rising temperatures may one day make parts of the globe uninhabitable, but smaller temperature changes have already begun to decimate Pacific coral reefs.

Only immediate and aggressive efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change can head off these accelerating near-term impacts, argues a commentary paper published in the journal Nature Geoscience. As more impacts occur, the incentives for addressing the causes will themselves change, the paper’s authors warn.

“Our argument is that if you want to do something, you’d better do something now because over time, you are going to lose the ability to have an impact,” said Juan Moreno-Cruz, an assistant professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Economics and one of the paper’s co-authors. “If we delay action on climate change, the likelihood of doing something will be reduced because the damages will be accelerating. The incentives to address it are going to disappear as more damage occurs.”

Climate change impacts are often assumed to increase steadily with global temperature increases, but that’s not true for all impacts. The scaling of many impacts with temperature may have a nonlinear sigmoidal pattern, with a dramatic initial impact followed by a leveling off as warming continues, said the paper’s authors at Georgia Tech, the Carnegie Institution for Science at Stanford, and the Pottsdam Institute of Climate Impact Research.​ 

— John Toon

Juan Moreno-Cruz

Juan Moreno-Cruz is an assistant professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Economics. He is working with other scientists to understand the economic issues involved in climate change impacts.

Subscribe to Research Horizons
Get the latest Georgia Tech research news through our free print magazine, monthly electronic newsletter, and Twitter feed.

 

Georgia Tech is home to more than 2,500 faculty members who conduct scientific and engineering research in hundreds of different research areas.

Related Stories

Read More
Read More
Read More

Media Contacts

John Toon

John Toon

Director of Research News
Phone: 404.894.6986
photo - Jason Maderer

Jason Maderer

National Media Relations
Phone: 404.385.2966
photo - Ben Brumfield

Ben Brumfield

Senior Science Writer
Phone: 404.385.1933
Josh Brown

Josh Brown

Senior Science Writer
Phone: 404-385-0500

Subscribe & Connect

Follow Us on Twitter:

@gtresearchnews

RSS Feeds

Subscribe to our RSS Feeds with your favorite reader.

Email Newsletter

Sign up to receive our monthly email newsletter.

Research Horizons Magazine

Sign up for a free subscription to Research Horizons magazine.