Fires Rage, Flood Waters Rise; UN Report Waves Red Flags
For the past several decades, the issue of human-accelerated Climate Change has been a hot-button topic. But in recent years,
For the past several decades, the issue of human-accelerated Climate Change has been a hot-button topic. But in recent years, science has been gathering a fact-driven consensus on the fact that humans are in fact contributing to and accelerating Climate Change. A new report from the UN raises red flags about the speed with which the Earth’s climate is changing and how much our species is impacting it; with new data to back up their claims.
While nothing has changed about the scientific community’s call for people to act, we now know more than we did before about the way the climate is changing, how we’re impacting it, and what we can do to reverse the damage before it’s too late. CELEB takes a look at what the UN report says, how Climate Change is impacting the planet, and what you can do to be a part of the solution.
UN Report Raises Flags
A new report from the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has cemented some long-thought conjectures about Climate Change and the role of human activity on it. The language used in the report was precise; calling it, “unequivocal,” “clearly human-caused,” and “an established fact.” The study examined 5 different possible scenarios for the future. AP News reports, “Each of five scenarios for the future, based on how much carbon emissions are cut, passes the more stringent of two thresholds set in the 2015 Paris climate agreement. World leaders agreed then to try to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above levels in the late 19th century because problems mount quickly after that. The world has already warmed nearly 1.1 degrees Celsius (2 degrees Fahrenheit) since then.
Under each scenario, the report said, the world will cross the 1.5-degree-Celsius warming mark in the 2030s, earlier than some past predictions. Warming has ramped up in recent years, data show.”
Along with the five predictive scenarios run by the IPCC, the report contains a compilation of data from a staggering 14,000 studies on Climate Change. While the report hasn’t added a whole lot of new information, it has definitely made established conjectures more solid. The results have been deemed a “code red” and the IPCC hopes that leaders in countries responsible for the most carbon dioxide emissions will take this report for what it is: a dire signal for action.
It’s important to note one of the most alarming findings from the report. Previously, scientists had predicted that the planet would warm 1.5-degrees celsius above baseline by the 2040’s, but now we know that it will happen in the next decade; sometime in the 2030’s.
Wild Weather Events Encircle Globe
And even though some of the effects are 10 years or more off, many are being felt today and have been for the past few years. More severe hurricanes, bigger fires than ever, killer heat waves and massive floods in otherwise high and dry areas are all signs that the planet is destabilized by the warming trend. Weather is the day to day changes we feel; rain, heat, cold, etc. Climate is the pattern of weather for a location. Some areas have a climate that is dry, such as parts of Africa, some areas have a climate that is wet with frequent rainstorms, such as the Rainforest. When Climate Change destabilizes the weather patterns of an area, it can have dire effect on plant and animal wildlife, and changes that reach far enough can cause global disasters such as rapidly rising sea levels and more severe storms.
If you’ve been watching the news, you’ve seen the results of these changes with your own eyes. In July, Germany was hit by devastating floods in a region that hasn’t seen flooding in a thousand years or more, and was the worst weather disaster there in over 500 years. 180 people died, and the economic cost is massive; it will take nearly 30 million euros to repair damage to infrastructure and homes.
California is setting new records this year with wildfires as well. While wildfires often ravage the Western state during the dry Summer and Fall months, they’re getting bigger and spreading faster due to less average rainfall. The Dixie Fire currently burning in California is the second largest fire in the state’s history, and the largest single fire. Fire isn’t the only danger though; drought is causing vital water supplies to dry up for the first time and soon millions will be in danger of water shortages or rationing.
While many think that Climate Change will hit the East Coast states hardest with hurricanes, it is not the only vulnerable region in the US. A dangerous heat dome also rocked the Pacific Northwest earlier this Summer. Temperatures reached and were sustained between 100-110 in many areas used to 70-degree Summers, and parts of Canada were breathtakingly hot with 110+ degree days. This comes amid a 51-day dry streak for Seattle, a city which sees nearly daily rainfall year-round. Temperatures are expected to reach the 100’s again next week – unwelcome news for the PNW which is poorly equipped for such heat.
In Texas, the Winter brought unprecedented sustained freezing temperatures which destroyed pipes and infrastructure all over the state. People shivered inside of their homes as the independent power grid for Texas failed, and 69 people died. Repairs cost $18 billion.
And on the East Coast, states are vulnerable to more severe hurricanes as Climate Change effects the weather patterns across both oceans. As more glaciers melt – which they are doing at an alarming and unprecedented rate – the sea water rises and jet streams shift. The proximity of the jet stream to land is part of what keeps weather patterns stable in coastal regions. More warm water fuels bigger storms, this is an accepted fact, and the oceans are warming with the rest of the planet. And a lack of glaciers raises the temperature of the world on its own. Wired reports per MSN, “… the outsized worry is the Arctic, which is warming so quickly that until recently scientists were saying it was heating twice as fast as the rest of the planet. Now they’re saying it’s three times as fast, says University of Edinburgh global change ecologist Isla Myers-Smith, who studies the region but wasn’t involved in the IPCC report. The increase is due to a number of factors like altered ocean currents and the albedo effect: As more ice melts, it exposes the darker land underneath, which further heats the region, leading to more melting.”
But all is not lost.
Washington Eyes Changes to Combat Climate Change
There is certainly some things about Climate Change that have gone too far and are irreversible, such as the 1.5-degree change. We have gone too far along that path to turn back. But with action taken on a global level from the world’s biggest industrial leaders, we can slow some of the damage and maybe even reverse some – the only comforting news to come out of the report.
Space.com reports per MSN, “‘There’s no going back’ to the climate that persisted on Earth for thousands of years, Barrett said at the IPCC briefing. However, some of the changes that we’re now seeing can be slowed or even stopped in their tracks if we can limit the rise of global temperature averages to no more than 2.7 F above pre-Industrial levels, Barrett said. But without large-scale reductions in emissions that are currently warming the planet, that goal ‘will be beyond reach,’ she added.
‘Achieving global net zero CO2 emissions is a requirement for stabilizing CO2-induced global surface temperature increase,’ the researchers wrote in the report.”
So how do we slow the damage? Unfortunately, even the most responsible eco-warrior can do so much. Change has to happen on an industrial level, and that means regulation by world governments. It means a commitment by governments to place people over profits. What individual people can do best is lobby their legislators and leaders to take the report seriously and rely on expert guidance to make the necessary changes.
That appears to be happening in Washington D.C. Senate Democrats just released a $3.5 trillion budget that will impose higher taxes on the wealthiest Americans and fund the government’s efforts to curb Climate Change. While the GOP is likely to fight these efforts, Democrats can use a budget reconciliation effort to pass it, a move which is strongly encouraged by the eco-conscious Progressive arm of the Democrat party. The US will have to committ to regulation industrial carbon dioxide emissions and encourage their peers to join them. If we can limit temperature rise to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit or less, we can slow the melting of glaciers by centuries. While we are locked in to at least several more feet of sea level rise because of damage already done, scientists warn that giving up would be a fatal mistake. For people who struggle to understand why a global temperature rise of 3 degrees would be so devastating, consider house plants. Some house plants are so touchy that a few degrees of temperature fluctuation or moisture difference will kill them. Expand that on a global scale, and consider the animals who rely on those plants for food. And the animals who rely on those animals for food. Even if you can’t convince yourself that melting ice caps are disastrous, the ripple effect on plants and animals is clear and concerning.
So what is a person to do? Get active. Scientists recommend that everyone begin taking the threat seriously and push their governments to take action. Personal responsibility in caring for the planet extends out in a ripple effect and we can teach our friends, family, and children to do the same. If individuals care about the planet, so too will their governments. While those of us who are alive will certainly be facing dangerous weather patterns, smothering heat, and frightening levels of change in the next 10 to 20 years – we don’t have to condemn our children and their children to worse. The time to act is now, and the UN report has lit the beacon in hopes that people pay attention.