The world is warming and we must act
This past Northern Hemisphere summer, California burned like never before and at the same time Australia, in the Southern Hemisphere winter, also had record breaking wildfires.
In between, we have seen massive floods in India and other parts of the world on a precedent-setting scale.
These extremes of climate changerelated disasters have been predicted for at least three decades by some of the world’s leading scientists, but they were either ignored or pilloried by those who still deny climate change even exists. The debate has been bogged down in a morass of genuine science, pseudoscience, superstition and ignorance to the point where few laypeople can agree on what the facts are.
Differences of opinion, however, don’t change the facts any more than the celebrity or political status of the person holding those opinions can.
And some facts are glaringly obvious. About 50 years ago, scientists predicted that the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, as a direct result of the combustion of coal and oil over a relatively short 200 years, would cause global warming. It is also a reality that the speed of that change is faster than many species, including humans, can adapt to.
In reality, we have what should be called accelerated climate change.
The amount of carbon in the world had not changed, but most of it was locked up in fossil fuels.
Since the start of Industrial Revolution just over 200 years ago and the invention of the internal combustion engine a little more than 100 years ago, we have dug up and burnt countless billions of tonnes of coal and oil, releasing all that stored carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and an ever increasing rate.
Studies have shown that sea surface temperatures are increasing rapidly, which is affecting weather and climate with more intense rains.
This was why 2017 was the hottest year ever recorded at the Earth’s surface. Additionally, 2016 was a year with record hurricanes, heat waves, droughts, and wildfires around the world. That process is continuing.
Every year during August and September, storms develop over the North Atlantic Ocean and sweep in over the eastern states of the US.
Last year, with ocean surface temperatures warmer than ever before, the increased heat acted as an accelerant and the storms developed into the biggest hurricanes in recorded history, covering the entire state of Florida. Winds of more than 200kmh and a record rain deluge brought mayhem to millions and death to many.
In the following summer, that increased heat fuelled the usual annual wildfires into massive and uncontrollable infernos like never before.
Closer to home, we now know that last September has been the wettest for many years, with Hamilton Airport measuring 1271mm of rain since the beginning of that year, which is the highest JanuarySeptember tally since records began in 1935.
This year is already on the way to being the wettest in more than 80 years, with bigger floods and heavier downpours throughout most of the country than ever before.
Most of our rain comes in from the Tasman Sea with the prevailing westerly winds and the Tasman, like the North Atlantic, is warmer than it has ever been.
The new research has quantified how much the Earth has warmed over the past 56 years due principally to human activity and the combustion of fossil fuels.
That has the added carbon dioxide to the atmosphere at ever-increasing rates. That increase of more than 40 per cent, with most since 1980, has trapped heat in the Earth’s system, warming the entire planet to the point where it can now be reliably measured.
While most governments throughout the world accept that something needs to be done, until quite recently nothing had been done beyond talk about the problem, simply because that problem was not easy to see or quantify and too many influential people refuse to accept that there was a problem at all.
If we don’t have the collective ability to avoid real and obvious calamities like war and world poverty, the chances of actually reversing global warming are slim at best, even though we have the technical ability to do so.
Planet Earth is probably not at risk, but life as we know it today probably is unless the problem is taken much more seriously than it is at present.
Hamilton Airport has had 1271mm of rain since the beginning of the year, which is the highest January-September tally since records began in 1935.