VIDEO: What cities could look like if the global temperature rises 4 degrees Celsius
In basic math the difference between two and four is simple. In terms of degrees Celsius, the difference between 2 and 4 is catastrophe, according to a team of climate scientists and researchers.
Climate Central is a non-partisan organization comprising dozens of climate scientists, meteorologists, analysts, researchers and journalists who regularly issue reports on global warming and climate change.
The group recently released a series of startling illustrations depicting what coastal cities could look like if the world temperature rises two- and four degrees Celsius.
"At our current rate of emissions the Earth is on track to warm by up to four degrees Celsius or about seven degrees Fahrenheit. In terms of sea levels alone, the difference in projected outcomes is dramatic," Bernadette Woods Placky, chief meteorologist for Climate Central, said.
"Dramatic" in this instance means New York City would be under water.
Ben Strauss, a scientist and vice president for sea level and climate impact at Climate Central, said the photos used in the video represented a "locked in" view of the world should the global temperature rise 2- to 4 degrees Celsius.
"It's like letting the genie out of the bottle or opening Pandora's Box," Strauss said.
He cautioned, however, that there wasn't a set-in-stone timetable for what would be a devastating rise in sea level.
"It's much harder to put a timestamp on how quickly that would unfold," Strauss said. "If I dumped a bucket of ice in the middle of the room I can tell you it will melt, but I couldn't tell you exactly when it would melt."
He said the 4-degree increase seen in the video above would guarantee disastrous flooding in coastal cities that could take anywhere from hundreds of years to thousands of years, "but no more than that," he said.
"But it's more about legacy and heritage," he said. "Even if that sea level rise would occur in 2200 -- that's not that far off."
The images were released at a time when world leaders are meeting in Paris to discuss strategies for addressing an overheating planet.
According to the Associated Press:
Even before the gathering, more than 180 countries pledged to cut or curb their emissions, but scientific analyses show that much bigger reductions would be needed to limit man-made warming of the Earth to 2 degrees Centigrade (3.8 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial times, the internationally agreed-upon goal.
So why 2C? Climate Central explains --
President Barack Obama said Tuesday that agreements reached at the climate conference (COP21) should be legally binding, setting up another possible conflict with Republicans in Congress when he comes home.
This post has been updated with comments from Dr. Ben Strauss, a scientist and vice president for sea level and climate impact at Climate Central.