Global Choices & Consequences
In 1950, a sevenfold expansion of the world economy began. It has been accompanied by a quadrupling of the frequency of extreme weather events (EWEs). Economic growth has driven by rapidly increasing fossil fuel combustion, consumerism and transnational corporate power. Within half a century, the Earth's atmosphere has been radically changed. This is due to the massive transfer of fossil carbon from deep below the planet’s surface, into the atmosphere.
Our carbon waste stream is over 70 million tons a day. Of all the carbon dioxide we emit into the atmosphere, only half of it stays there. The other half goes into "carbon sinks"-- the oceans and land biosphere. New data show that carbon dioxide absorption in the North Atlantic Ocean halved in the decade up to 2005. These findings show the oceans are becoming saturated by our emissions. And just as Peak Oil is becoming a dominant factor in the human economy, carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere has surpassed 390ppm, well beyond the upper limit that defined the climate of the last 12000 years.
Scientific predictions of environmental change are difficult for ordinary human beings to comprehend fully. We hear about hot temperatures and rising sea levels, vast population growth, depletion of resources, and extinction of species. Human activity everywhere is hastening to destroy elements of the natural eco-systems all living beings depend on. These threatening developments are individually drastic and together amazing. 
The 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or IPCC , the collaborative work of 2500 expert scientists from 100 countries, is a conservative, authoritative scientific document. It describes in detail the consequences if carbon gas emissions are not systematically reduced. The frequency of major storms and floods will increase dramatically. Sea levels could rise a metre or more by 2100, inundating coastlines and coastal cities. Oceans will become acidic, leading to destruction of coral reefs and marine life. Deadly heat waves will become prevalent. Snow will disappear from all but the highest mountains. Agriculture will collapse widely and deserts will expand. Hundreds of millions of people will suffer water shortage and famine. Indeed, these scientific predictions recall the portents described in visionary texts of the Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, such as the Legend of the Great Stupa:
The celestial order, disrupted, loosens plague, famine and war to terrorize terrestrial life...No rain falls in season, but out of season; the valleys are flooded. Famine and hail govern many unproductive years. Diseases, horrible epidemics and plagues spread like wildfire, striking men and cattle… fire, storms and tornadoes destroy temples, stupas and cities in an instant .
Much recent data indicate that the IPCC Reports have underestimated the speed of climate change. In 2007, for example, scientists were shocked by the rapid expansion of Arctic sea-ice melting. The timescale for corrective action has been shortened by decades. Antarctica and Greenland are covered by enormous land-based ice sheets. On the other hand, the vast northern polar pack-ice cap, as large as the continental USA, floats on the sea surface. Since it already displaces seawater, it would not increase sea levels if it melted. However, that melting would remove the reflective cooling (‘albedo’) effect of the white sea-ice. As a result there would be a rise in sea temperature, and this would further destabilize terrestrial ice sheets.
Should GHG emissions follow anything close to a ‘business as usual’ rise, substantive parts of Greenland and Antarctica will melt—raising sea levels around the world by no less than 1 - 3 metres this century. That would cause the world’s coastlines to retreat dramatically, swallowing thousands of square miles of productive farmland from the Mekong Delta to East Anglia. As well as the already evident danger to places like Louisiana and Bangladesh (below), major port cities could be lost to the sea. New York, London, Tokyo, Mumbai, Calcutta, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Bangkok and Singapore are among those at risk .
1. Dalai Lama XIV , Collected Statements on Environment
2. IPCC, 4th Assessment Report 
3. Padmasambhava, transl. Dowman K. Legend of the Great Stupa 
4. OECD, Ranking of world’s cities most exposed to coastal flooding.