Fig. 1 IPCC’s RCP8.5 scenario average change in surface temperature (1986-2005 to 2081-2100). The RCP8.5 is the most extreme climate scenario, a future humans are not likely to survive for long. Models take available data, knowledge of how our climate functions and has functioned, and makes projections based on trends that can be extrapolated. A model does not proclaim absolute certainty. We do not know exactly what will happen. This watercolor may bleed 1000km too far west – this map, like the projection, is not an exact look at the future. Yet these models hold immense value as they give us a larger idea of what will happen on different paths we take. We can see that the impacts will not be evenly spread. We can see how extreme this temperature regime is. We can see that this is an uninhabitable world, regardless of how the watercolor dried. William Riley.
The immesnse expanse of our planet is most often visualized through abstracted forms, yet global catastrophe remains difficult to reduce to the single diagram. In recent memory the flattened projection of globe, turned technical diagram, has become an iconic visualization of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the wildly disseminated maps produced by organizations such as the New York Times, the pandemic is divided by the political boarders of internationally recognized states. Countries are rendered in shades of yellow, orange, red and maroon. Continents become color fields. Crisis is crimson.
Presented with the existential and inescapable severity of the climate crisis, our visualizations of global climate catastrophe also default to the evocative shades of the sanguine. Often corporally detached by the technical precision of computer generated graphics, maps such as RCP8.5 lack a human connection. While the technical projected map provides severely impoverished vision of the violently dire stakes of climate catastrophe, it remains an alluring conception of our immediate and incompressible global emergencies. CPM.