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“Climate change: it’s even worse than we think”

November 21st, 2012 · No Comments

“Climate change: its even worse than we think” (than we thought) is an increasingly common conclusion from the scientific experts.

Often decried modeling is, as climate denying anti-science syndrome sufferers like Jim Inhofe like to state, truly proving to have been wrong. Inhofe/et al are simply getting the error bar wrong, the situation looks to be far worse than what the global scientific community has been saying about climate change. Consistently, the situation is worsening faster than the ‘consensus’ modeling predicted 20, 10, or even just 5 years ago.  And, with an increasing understanding that events are moving faster in the real world than what modeling foresaw, this is creating an increased urgency to warn policy-makers about the consequences of blind continuation with business as usual policy.

The UN’s World Meteorological Organization (WMO) just came out with a report documenting that greenhouse gas emissions set a record in 2011 and that we should expect worse in 2012.

The amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached a new record high in 2011, according to the World Meteorological Organization. Between 1990 and 2011 there was a 30% increase in radiative forcing – the warming effect on our climate – because of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other heat-trapping long-lived gases.

We, across the planet, are nowhere closer to reversing the tide on emissions.

Just last week, the radical World Bank came out with a searing report about the consequences of a 4 degree centigrade global temperature rise (see here, here, and …).  It paints a devastating picture of where we are heading, before the next century (at a minimum), if we do not do some major course corrections. As the President of the World Bank put it in the forward,

most importantly, a 4°C world is so different from the current one that it comes with high uncertainty and new risks that threaten our ability to anticipate and plan for future adaptation needs.

Let’s be clear: we are on a path to a 4C temperature increase and preventing hitting that 4 degree increase is a rather minimalist target.  The world community has committed, at least in paper terms, to avoiding a 2 degree increaseWe are already serious climate disruption impacts, measured in agricultural prices, disappearing glacier and Arctic ice, species going extinct, human deaths, and … And, this is just with a 1 degree C increase in temperatures.  Thus, even a 2 degree C increase has massively painful and disruptive impacts. From this report, a key sentence:

It is clear that large regional as well as global scale damages and risks are very likely to occur well before this level of warming [4C] is reached.

Substitute “[2C]” and that sentence is still true. In other words, the risks are not being overstated and the urgency of moving to serious action is not being overstated.

Thus, the New Scientist article “climate change: it’s worse than we think” is yet another straw being thrown on the camel of climate policy inaction and waffling by too many policy-makers around the world. The introduction:

Five years ago, the last report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change painted a gloomy picture of our planet’s future. As climate scientists gather evidence for the next report, due in 2014, Michael Le Page gives seven reasons why things are looking even grimmer.

After the fold, a look at those seven reasons.

ARCTIC WARMING

The thick sea ice in the Arctic Ocean was not expected to melt until the end of the century. If current trends continue, summer ice could be gone in a decade or two.

EXTREME WEATHER

We knew global warming was going to make the weather more extreme. But it’s becoming even more extreme than anyone predicted.

FOOD PRODUCTION

Global warming was expected to boost food production. Instead, food prices are soaring as the effects of extreme weather kick in.

SEA LEVEL

Greenland’s rapid loss of ice mean we’re in for a rise of at least 1 metre by 2100, and possibly much more.

PLANETARY FEEDBACKS

The planet currently absorbs half our CO2 emissions. All the signs are it won’t for much longer.

HUMAN EMISSIONS

If we stopped emitting CO2 tomorrow, we might be able to avoid climate disaster. In fact we are still increasing emissions.

HEAT STRESS

If the worst climate predictions are realised, vast swathes of the globe could become too hot for humans to survive.

Looking at this list, it is clear that it is well past time to begin an “education process” and certainly (past) time to be in a World War II-like mobilization to change humanity toward a low-carbon, prosperous, climate-friendly future.

When it comes to our priorities today, tomorrow, and for the coming century, Bloomberg certainly got it right:

IT’S GLOBAL WARMING, STUPID.

NOTE: The first commentator decried the ‘doom and gloom’ nature of this post and asked for action items. Here are three examples:

Join the Do The Math campaign to confront fossil foolish interests in the United States and globally.

Advocate that the Obama Administration end the climate silence, and that the President act forcefully to live up to his recent pledge to start a climate education campaign.

Advocate for solutions, such as the 10s of millions of jobs outlined in this series of posts on Clean Energy Jobs.

Tags: catastrophic climate change

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