The warring inhabitants of Westeros — one of the four known continents in the Game of Thrones world — dread the planet's long, unforgiving winters. But a global warming event there, stoked by an influx of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, would likely be even more dire.
Earlier this week, University of Bristol climate scientist Dan Lunt published a study that modeled the doubling of carbon dioxide on the Game of Thrones fantasy world. His results show that if these levels doubled over the course of a century, the average temperature on the planet would warm by over 2 degrees Celsius, or about 3.5 Fahrenheit. This climatic shift would make some areas nearly uninhabitable and unleash devastating natural disasters.
"When you kick the climate, every single part of it changes," said Lunt in an interview. When not modeling the future climate of fantasy worlds, Lunt researches the mechanisms that influenced past climate change on Earth to better learn how future atmospheric changes will affect our planet.
Lunt notes his work is "relevant for Earth's policy makers as we burn more fossil fuels."
Image: Dan Lunt / University of Bristol
Lunt said it's "not a giant leap to simulate climate change in a fantasy world." The two degrees of simulated warming here — as carbon dioxide gases trap a nearby sun's reflected heat inside the world — would bring about extreme events like heavy rain, flooding, storm surges, and drought in different regions around the medieval-themed planet.
"Normally when you double the amount of CO2 then you tend to increase extreme events," explained Lunt. "The system is so interconnected that every thing changes."
An important consequence of this warming for the peoples of the Seven Kingdoms would be thawed polar regions, which in the north is home to the murderous White Walkers — malevolent, supernatural humanoids that can only survive in frigid climes.
"It's a big change, especially the effects it would have on the White Walkers," said Lunt. "It would push them back further north."
For people of Westeros, this is outwardly a good thing. The White Walkers — whose primary motivation seems to be annihilating people — would be sequestered far away in near the north pole.
But, notes Lund, "There are winners and losers in climate change." For instance, the southern land of Dawn "would probably become uninhabitably hot," he said.
Image: DAN LUNT / UNIVERSITY OF BRISTOL
The ornate castles and infrastructure of King's Landing — home to spiteful Cersei Lannister — also wouldn't be spared.
"King's Landing would be struggling in terms of sea level rise," Lunt said.
Modeling a planet with only four known continents is no easy task. Fortunately, there are at least good maps of the known fantasy world, and the Game of Thrones books reveal what areas lie near the center, or equator. From here, Lunt was forced to make up other continents as he lacked any better options.
Lunt also only had time to run the models for a century — so the warming effects could certainly have increased had more time passed, bringing more natural terror to the Seven Kingdoms.
After the models were finished, there seemed to be few places that were desirable to live. When asked where he might reside in such a climate-ravaged world, Lunt replied The Neck on the Westeros continent, where nearly the entire Stark family was murdered in a surprise bloodbath.
"It looks nice there," he said.