Several NASA scientists hosted a virtual interview last week on Reddit, and some of their predictions about the impacts of climate change — specifically, the threat of future megadroughts — might leave you slightly concerned.
The AMA – an abbreviation for “Ask Me Anything” – was hosted by four scientists who work for NASA. Their areas of expertise range from climate science to hydrology, but they all have an important role in communicating a crucial message: the risk of a megadrought is growing in the United States, and we should be prepared to deal with crippling conditions by the end of the century.
The AMA came on the heels a recently released climate model that revealed an 80 percent chance of a decades-long drought for the Plains and Southwest by the end of the 21st century, assuming greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase at their current pace. If leaders can find a way to level out emissions by 2050, the long-term models show a 60 percent chance of a megadrought in the same areas.
Here are some of the most compelling responses from the NASA scientists who took part in the AMA:
1. “Come on, we have to wean ourselves off fossil fuels. The planet is warming, ice sheets are melting and the sea level is rising. This will continue for centuries. No stopping it, but we can slow it down and have a livable climate…”
2. “Low lying areas like Bangladesh and Florida are high on the list of at-risk locations. This is part of why it’s so silly that there has been a semi-official policy in Florida to ban the use of the terms ‘global warming’ and ‘climate change.'”
3. “Over the next 50 years, I think droughts will continue to be a major problem for much of the West and that the droughts, and their impacts, will likely get worse over time…”
4. “The problem is the deep, ancient aquifers. They are not being replenished. We will pay for that. It is unsustainable!”
5. “Extended drought period will lead to socioeconomic drought. The repercussions will be felt by humans in many ways…”