What will the Earth be like for our children and grandchildren, as temperatures continue to rise? We can be fairly certain of some things: Some regions will become inhospitable, as heat drives their inhabitants away or causes massive declines and changes in their ecosystems. Many other physical, chemical and biological processes will also be affected by rising temperatures that threaten critical ecosystem services such as food production, biodiversity and energy security.
But what these changes will be and exactly how they impact the Earth — and ultimately us humans — are still difficult to predict. Many of them are so gradual and happen over such a long timescale that they wouldn’t be noticeable until they accelerate past the point of no return. Other events, meanwhile, are so rare and unpredictable that it would be impossible to prepare for them by ordinary means. Yet others have such wide-ranging effects that experts from several disciplines would be needed to unravel the mystery.