When It Comes to Climate Change, We’re Already Sunk
The conservative World Meteorological Organization (WMO) says we are already under water when it comes to climate change. And it is only going to get deeper.
Less than two weeks ago, the WMO, an international body of scientists working to understand what is happening with the climate and its impacts on the world, published its “WMO Statement on the State of the Global Climate in 2016.” According to the WMO, the earth and its inhabitants are in deep trouble.
Here are a few of the report’s major findings:
• Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, the number one cause of the mess, set a new record of 400 parts per million in the atmosphere. Methane (CH ) and nitrous oxide (N O)
4 2 reached record highs in 2015, with data on 2016 to be available later this year. The values measured correspond to CO running at 144%
2 of pre-industrial levels, methane at 256% and nitrous oxide at 121% of pre-1750 levels.
• Those greenhouse gas levels produced a new record temperature for the planet, hitting 1.1o Celsius above that of the pre-industrial period.
• Higher temperatures on water and land are contributing to much larger and more intense global storms than before, displacing hundreds of thousands of people and destroying crops. One of those, Hurricane Matthew, was the worst on record from an economic perspective, with Haiti having the most casualties.
• The weather changes also created an extension of record-setting drought in much of Africa, a drought that in some countries has now been running over 30 years and is getting worse month by month.
• The same weather also produced record-setting flooding in eastern and southern Asia. • The range of global sea ice, which is important both because it holds sea water in the form of ice and because the ice surfaces reflect rather than absorb sunlight, dropped by four million square kilometers below average.
• Global sea levels reached record highs, with the 2015/2016 El Niño heavily contributing to that surge.
2017 has continued this trend, with February 2017 being the second-warmest February on record, according to information supplied by Europe’s Copernicus Climate Change Service. Worse still, the Arctic in particular was much hotter than average, with a peak anomaly, as it is called, of +10o C compared to pre-industrial times measured over that region.
That last part pushed sea-ice levels to numbers far lower than normal for this time of year.
According to Petteri Taalas, head of the WMO, “Globally averaged sea-surface temperatures were the warmest on record, global sea levels continued to rise and Arctic sea ice extent was well below average for most of the year. The ocean temperatures overall rose by 0.76o C (or 1.4o F) in just the last year, breaking the 2015 temperature increase number of 0.74o C, the previous record for the highest ocean temperature increase in a single year. The report also noted that in some regions of the world, the sea level temperatures rose by as much as 1 or 2o C above the previous year’s numbers.”
One impact of this warming is the increased ferocity of tropical storms around the globe. These storms feed on the energy provided by the warm waters below. The result this year was some of the most damaging hurricanes and cyclones in history.
As one very recent example of this, as of the date of this writing, Australia is currently getting slammed by
Tropical Cyclone Debbie, which made landfall near Airlie Beach, Queensland, on March 28. It hit with 161 mph peak winds and was the equivalent of what in the United States is labeled a Category 4 storm. Twenty-five thousand residents have already been evacuated, with total deaths and damage still to be recorded.
And if there is any question of this being related to global warming, consider that since 1989, Australia has been hit by nine tropical cyclones of Category 3 or greater strength on the Saffir-simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Four of those storms blasted across that country in only the past six years.
Warming waters also disrupt the lives of the many creatures that live within them. This ranges from the larger species like whales and many species of fish that feed many in the world to the coral reefs that are connected to as much as 70% of all sea life on the planet. The whales and fish handle the warming by moving farther north where the waters are cooler and more like “normal” to them. But their food sources often do not move as fast, creating potential food chain supply shortages for the bigger members of the ocean world. Coral reefs cannot move, of course, and with the rest of the food chain so highly dependent on the many species that live in their shelter, this is a problem. Coral reef “bleaching,” which is the killing of the reefs from too high a temperature level, is becoming a major problem in some of the most extensive and important marine habitats.
Entire groups of sea life may die within the next few decades, with collateral damage on the rest of the world that is currently almost impossible to imagine.
The warming waters also have other serious side effects. Those waters expand when heated. Added to the increase in overall water caused by ice sheet melting and calving around the world (particularly in the polar regions like the Arctic), this is creating a big problem with rising water worldwide. In the past year, it created a global average sea level rise of 15 millimeters, or 0.6 inches. That is over five times the historical average annual rise of three millimeters per year since the 1990s, which was bad enough on its own.
The increase in sea levels has already made its mark in the so-called developed countries. Coastal towns in areas such as Maryland, for example, are now seeing floods every year that used to appear “once in a lifetime.” Areas along the southern U.S. coasts and most notably in Florida are also already being visibly affected. It is unfortunately not a joke that 10-20 years from now major areas from New Jersey to Miami Beach will be under water. In some more tropical regions, where ocean warming is at its highest levels, the water expansion is the worst and the impacts the most severe. This means that regions around the equator are going to see ocean water infiltrate the coasts, create flooding and undermine the fresh water aquifers that are critical to the survival of many of these areas.
In several areas, entire islands will completely disappear from this rise, some already have. One such place is Kiribati, an island located northeast of Australia and roughly due north of New Zealand. It is not far from the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Samoa and Fiji. Based on current projections, it is expected to be fully under water sometime between 30 and 60 years from now. That will wipe out the entire island and force its 100,000 inhabitants to find someplace else to live.
This may be a dark vision of the future, but it is also unfortunately a true one, backed up by solid facts and well-researched projections by thousands of scientists.
So as one listens in parallel to the most recent announcements from the corrupt Trump administration in the United States and his Environmental Protection Agency crony Scott Pruitt about how great the future is going to be with allowed higher emissions from so-called “clean coal” (even though there is no such thing as “clean coal”) and other fossil fuels, consider a slightly longer view.
Because the Arctic has heated up so fast and so much, our planet's self-destruct mechanism has been triggered and the Arctic is now spewing out massive amounts of CO2 and methane in quanities that will dwarf all human emissions for all time. This is causing runaway climate change that will wipe out most life on Earth. Nothing can stop it, short of a massive meteor strike, volcanic eruptions around the world, nuclear winter or some miracle technology we haven't thought of yet.
The fossil fuel manufacturers knew decades ago that their products would end up causing runaway climate change and have had no problem with destroying their own planet for short-term profit.
If we are to survive as a species we will have to pull our heads out of the oil barrel and evolve very rapidly. One of the ways we need to evolve is to stop giving corporations so much power and develop the means to keep destructive organizations in check and exact justice against criminal corporations and the individuals who lead them.