We need to get prepared for four degrees of global warming, Bob Watson told the Guardian last week. At first sight this looks like wise counsel from the climate science adviser to Defra. But the idea that we could adapt to a 4C rise is absurd and dangerous. Global warming on this scale would be a catastrophe that would mean, in the immortal words that Chief Seattle probably never spoke, "the end of living and the beginning of survival" for humankind. Or perhaps the beginning of our extinction.
The collapse of the polar ice caps would become inevitable, bringing long-term sea level rises of 70-80 metres. All the world's coastal plains would be lost, complete with ports, cities, transport and industrial infrastructure, and much of the world's most productive farmland. The world's geography would be transformed much as it was at the end of the last ice age, when sea levels rose by about 120 metres to create the Channel, the North Sea and Cardigan Bay out of dry land. Weather would become extreme and unpredictable, with more frequent and severe droughts, floods and hurricanes. The Earth's carrying capacity would be hugely reduced. Billions would undoubtedly die.
And the author, who has written a book on this subject, which probably has the same flavor, would like us to panic wildly into doing whatever it is he advocates.
Meanwhile, I'd remind you of the first bit of advice you need whenever you face something threatening: "Don't Panic." Panicky people die. And columnists running around with their hands in the air saying "oh, oh, oh, we're all going to die" are doing the very thing that helps kill people. All with, as I'm sure he'd reassure us, the best of intentions. For those of us who look at actions and judge their probable results, however, his intentions matter less than his irresponsible silliness.