Humanity is pumping out record amounts of greenhouse gases, and people are probably in more of a lather about the American Idol results than the fact that we’re well on our way to turning the planet into something not seen since the age of the dinosaurs. Sounds like the future is a whole bunch of business as usual. What’s that look like, again?

Let’s go to the archives. Here’s a report from a 2009 conference at Oxford:

A four-degree C [7.2F] overall increase means a world where temperatures will be two degrees [3.6 degrees F] warmer in some places, 12 degrees [21.6 degrees F] and more in others, making them uninhabitable. 

It is a world with a one- to two-meter [3 to 6.6 feet] sea level rise by 2100, leaving hundreds of millions homeless. This will head to 12 meters [39 feet] in the coming centuries as the Greenland and Western Antarctic ice sheets melt, according to papers presented at the conference in Oxford. 

Four degrees of warming would be hotter than any time in the last 30 million years, and it could happen as soon as 2060 to 2070.

And here’s a summary of a January 2011 special issue of super-respected science journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A:

A 4C [7.2F] rise in the planet’s temperature would see severe droughts across the world and millions of migrants seeking refuge as their food supplies collapse.

In such a 4°C world, the limits for human adaptation are likely to be exceeded in many parts of the world, while the limits for adaptation for natural systems would largely be exceeded throughout the world.

Current trends plus strong natural feedbacks — which many believe are likely — would get us to 7.2 degrees F of warming by 2060-2070. All the rich old white guys who got us into this mess will be dead by then. But you can bet their offspring will be cursing their short-sightedness! Even the ones who got a Big Wheels for Christmas.