6 Truths About Global Warming
October 22, 2014.
At ClimateStore, we’ve read most of the major consensus reports on global warming. The reports are written by teams of experts who review the available scientific literature to determine what facts are verified and with what confidence. Although not perfect, the process is impressive and results in the best source of expert opinion available.
After studying the reports we’ve discovered the following statements are true:
1. The Planet is Getting Warmer
There is no doubt that our planet is rapidly warming. The scientific data supporting this is overwhelming. There are many lines of evidence including: increased land temperatures, rising sea levels, melting glaciers, increased ocean temperatures, reduced spring snow cover, reduced extent of arctic summer sea ice, and more. The evidence is robust that the planet has been warming since the 1800's and has been on a strong steady upward trend since the 1960's.
2. Our Use of Fossil Fuels is Causing Climate Change
Although in the past climate change was driven exclusively by natural causes including: volcanic eruptions, changes in energy radiated from the sun, and periodic variations in the earth’s orbit, the current changes in our climate are due to our extensive use of fossil fuels and the greenhouse gas emissions they create.
We have all the evidence and logic we need to conclude that human use of fossil fuels are the primary cause of this change: the basic science of the greenhouse effect is long established, we emit billions of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere (every year!) leading to rapidly increasing CO2 concentrations and creating the warming conditions. And we have exhaustively eliminated all other reasonable explanations.
3. Left Unchecked, Global Temperatures Could Exceed Values Consistent with Life as We Have Come to Know It
Sadly, this is no joke. If we continue on the current path of fossil fuel use (i.e. the path of "business-as-usual"), the resulting changes from such high levels of atmospheric CO2 are forecast to be extreme.
Global temperatures would likely increase 4°C (+7.2°F) by the year 2100 reaching levels that haven't been seen for more than 800,000 years. Melting of the Greenland and the Antarctic ice sheets, and ocean expansion from heating, could lead to a sea-level rise of 0.5 to 1 meters (1.6 to 3.2 feet). And due to continued warming, more significant sea level rise (multiple meters) would happen after 2100. The oceans would become dangerously acidic and we could expect major impacts on world agriculture, extreme weather events, mass human migrations, and more.
Although forecasting is an imperfect business, the high risks associated with staying on our current path are clear.
4. We Need to Dramatically Reduce CO2 Emissions If We Want to Secure Our Future
Given the issue is growth of emissions, it's reasonable to think that if we just held them constant (let's say at 400 ppm), we'd have the problem licked. Unfortunately, the physics say otherwise. It turns out that, counter-intuitively, holding emissions constant leads to increasing global temperatures. Because CO2 hangs around in the atmosphere for such a long time, its heating effect is the gift that keeps on giving. Instead, we are tasked with reducing our emissions.
If we start today, we can reduce emissions at a manageable level (~3.5% per year). If we delay five or ten years, it gets more and more difficult. If we don't start for another decade, it's unlikely we'll be able to prevent irreversible climate change.
5. There is Good News! There's Still Time To Make a Difference
The very good news is there's still time to make a difference. Through sustained efforts in energy conservation, economic incentives, and investments clean energy technology, we can reduce our collective carbon footprint to stay below 2ºC in average warming for the planet.
Studies suggest that if we start reducing our energy consumption now by as little as 3 to 4% on an annual basis, we can transition to a less carbon-intensive economy and reach the permanent required reductions - all while living in a progressively cleaner world. Economic analyses suggest that incremental investment of as little as 1 to 2% of GDP per year would do the trick.
6. We Need to Get Moving
Due to the lag effect, if we delay fixing this problem, we'll have to make steeper reductions in the future and reduce emissions to lower levels. In one hypothetical example, delaying the start of emissions reductions for ten years (from 2010 to 2020), would result in a doubling in the annual reduction rate from 4% per year to 8% per year. Cutting emissions at a rate of 8% per year, for 30 years straight would be a tough thing to do. Cutting rates at 4% per year over 40 years is a lot more feasible.
The bottom line is – we need to start reducing our fossil fuel use today!