Climate eggheads conclude we’re toast, not sure when we’ll hear the ding

A three-day scientific conference on global warming in Exeter, U.K., that wrapped up today vividly illustrates the frustrating current state of the climate-change debate. There was a palpable sense of urgency among the scientists in attendance, as various studies predicted that global warming will yield rising sea levels, outbreaks of infectious disease, droughts, floods, famine, and up to 150 million “environmental refugees” fleeing arid or submerged land. Poor countries in South Asia and Africa are expected to be hardest hit, but aside from some areas of Canada and Russia that may become newly habitable, virtually every part of the world could see ill effects. Looming in the background was the poorly understood but widely acknowledged possibility of abrupt, catastrophic, irreversible climate change of the sort that was recently overdramatized in the movie The Day After Tomorrow. But just when all the gloomy predictions will come to pass is unknown. Scientists are still unable to answer the question U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair put at the center of the conference: “What level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is self-evidently too much?”

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