The UN has been convening the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) since 1988 to map the influence of human beings on the Earth's atmosphere. The 5th and latest report released in November 2014, verified by 4,000 of the world's best scientists, confirmed the unprecedented change in climate due to human (anthropogenic) activity over the past 150 years.
The data is now irrefutable. An over-abundance of greenhouse gases are warming our planet.
The effects of climate change will be widespread, disasterous and difficult to manage. But poorer countries will suffer earliest, and most.
Since the Industrial Revolution of the mid-19th century, we have been producing more and more waste through our transportation, production, agricultural and infrastructural methods. The vast growth of our globalised eonomy has caused the vast growth in carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide amounts in the atmosphere. Earth orbiting satellites (the International Satellite Station has at least 6 humans on it at all times) and ice cores delving down kilometeres into the Earth crust have proved these gases are preventing sunlight from exiting the atmosphere at an unnatural rate in these last 150 years, resulting in a myriad of climate related concerns for people and planet.
Can we be sure?
It has been argued that sudden solar energy shifts in the sun, or that natural Earth cycles are causing these changes. However, the comprehensive reporting agrred upon by 97% of scientists, with the help of drastic advancements in technology over the last 15 years, desqualifies such claims as an explanation. Indeed, over the last 650,000 years there have occured seven cycles of glacial advance and retreat. The last ice age ended abruptly about 7,000 years ago, marking the beginning of the modern climate era known as the Holocene. And even more recently, we now know because it is clear from the evidence, that changes in the composition of our atmosphere have dramatically changed in recent history. With the vast amount of damage happening in the past 30 years.
The tools we use to tell us this, also portend another frightening fact: that previous glacial advancements, with the normal impetus from the natural cycle of a healthy Earth, happened in just tens of years, not in millions or even thousands. Despite what we know so far, the futue of our climate is alarmingly uncertain.
A pretty swell and succinct analogy to denote the absurdity of the now unequivocal presence of climate change:
If 97% of scientists implored you not to board an unsafe airplane due to dangerous elements, but 3% told you there were foolish and incorrect, and that the plane would be fine.....
........ would you board the plane?
A super sketch to epitomise the foolishness in wasting energy debating the science. A low carbon future is more positive for all. The atmosphere, the ecosystem, the economy, the world's poorest people... the list goes on.
The evidence is unequivocal and the effects are encroaching. Here in the UK, 2015 was the hottest year ever since records began in 1850, a trend set to continue. Whlst at the same time flooding was worse than ever with thousands being displaced. Elsewhere on Earth, huge weather events cripple societies and wipe out enture areas. Other events thrash less at the fabric of existence but cause worrying, long-term consequences such as droughts and ensuing food shortages.
There is hot, and pointless, debate on whether these events are attributable to climate change, but as time goes on and the effects show themselves, there is no way we can deny mass that food shortage, water scarcity and biodiversity loss are due to environmental shifts - and no way we can ignore the political impacts of climate change on entire nations. The refugee problem has multiplied beyond what any thought possible in recent decades, however the displacement of people due to climate change and its ravaging impacts are sure to increase.
We are unequivocally set to see these issues exacerbate exponentially in our lifetimes.
Global temperature rise
Most warming has occurred since the 1970s, with the 20 warmest years in the history of humanity having occurred since 1981. 10 of these warmest years ever have occured in the past 12 years, with 2015 being a record breaker.
Hurricanes in the US, earthquakes in Nepal, droughts in Brazil, heat waves in Moscow. Extreme weather is worsening, beating records of devestation, destruction and death year on year.
The oceans have absorbed much of this heat and one third of carbon dioxide, with the top 700 meters of ocean showing the most dangerous warming. 25% of coral reefs have already been lost to human activity and warming oceans.
Sea level rise
Global sea level rose about 17 centimeters in the last century. In the last decade, this rate has doubled. Costal settlemtns and cities wil be swamped and disappear, and countires like Bangladesh will be devestated.
Since the Industrial Revolution, acidity of ocean surface has increased by about 30%. The amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by the upper layer of the oceans is increasing by about 2 billion tons per year.
650 million people live in arid or semi-arid areas where floods, droughts and ensuing produce price shocks will have the worse impacts due to changing climates. African regions are estimated to experience crop yeild losses of 35% by 2050.
Air pollution kills more people than AIDS, Malaria, and TB put together multiplied by two. And the World Health Organization estimates that death tolls will increase by 250,000 per year from these extreme weather events.
Warming temperatures, worsening air quality. These effects will pave the way for millions more deaths in disease from air borne vectors reaching further and wider.
Glaciers store about 75% of the planet's fresh water supply. These melting, and storms raging are causing more water to rush into the ocean, reducing our ability to catch and use it. 2% of water is fresh for drinking, we need every last bit....
Studies have shown that the current increase in climate change may erradicate a quater of land species by 2050. Fresh water and perhaps even moreso ocean life is set to tumble too.
Glaciers are retreating almost everywhere around the world — including in the Alps, Himalayas, Andes, Rockies, Alaska and Africa. If all land ice melted, sea level would rise approximately 70 meters worldwide displacing hundreds of millions of people.
International Red Cross saysthere are more environmental than political refugees. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says 36 million people were displaced by natural weather disasters in 2009, which will rise to at least 50 million by 2050. Add to this those moving as longer term disasters such as drought, flooding and warming take their toll and hundreds of millions will be effected.
Decreased snow cover
Snow cover provides a high albedo, which means high amounts of sunlight are reflected back into space. Less snow, more heat. The more the snow melts, the more sun is absorbed intn the surface of the planet and the hotter it gets.
Climate change causes societal stress that can ignite a volatile mix of issues that erupt into war and revolution. The Arab Spring, Syrian droughts: these incidents are increasingly being linked to climate changes.
Declining Arctic sea ice
Both the extent and thickness of Arctic sea ice has declined rapidly over the last several decades.
The arctic may become ice free in summer within 20 years. Nasa have a great resource named Sentinels of Climate Change to find out more.
Climate change could cost us between 5-20% of annual global gross domestic product (GDP), according to the UK government Draft Climate Change Bill of 2007. Which also states that it would only cost 1% of GDP now to lessen the most damaging effects of climate change, the report says.
The low carbon economy provides huge opportunities for business, but ignoring the problem will cost unfathomable amounts, impacting on our health care, pensions and more.
What can we do?
The first step is acceptance. Accepting that the commodified, convenient lifestyle we've been enjoying is going to be disrupted.
Because the alternative is we choose ourselves over the billions of others less lucky to live in first world countries. And otherwise we choose to condemn the world's natrual habitats, ecosystems and creatures to cataclysmic climate shifts that will will render their environments unlivable.
We must choose life.
And we must make changes.
Green your commute - Walk, ride, run, skip where you can. Remember that demand equals supply so the less you buy cars, or ride the buses and trains the less they will be offered to society.
Eat wisely Eat much less meat, if any! Buy local organic, reduce the miles your food travels as well as the chemicals. Avoid processed items. Grow some of your own food. And eat low on the food chain—at least one meat-free meal a day—since 18 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions come from meat and dairy production. Food writer Michael Pollan sums it up best: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
Think about your energy use - switch off lights, switch off plugs, unplug chargers, close doors, choose energy star appliances, wash at 30 degrees, pick LED bulbs... Imagine if everyone of us in the developed nations did this?
Choose renewable power Switch your account to clean, renewable power such as from wind farms or solar and tidal. It's so easy!
Limit your waste Rubbish clogs the oceans and sits in landfills producing methane. Buy less stuff, recycle clothes from charity shops. Recycling paper, plastic, metal and glass, use compost. Let store managers and manufacturers know you want products with minimal or recyclable packaging.
Make polluters pay Don't spend on bad companies and divest your monmey from bad banks. Ensure your pounds don't fund mass deforestation, extraction and displacement of indigenous people. Carbon taxes make polluting activities more expensive and help fun green solutions. Speak loudly about carbon taxes and divestment.
Fly less Have a holi-stay. Travel England. Map your carbon flightprint. Before you book your next ticket, consider greener options such as buses or trains.
Get involved Take a few minutes to contact your political representatives and the media to tell them you want immediate action on climate change. Remind them that reducing greenhouse gas emissions will also build healthier communities, spur economic innovation and create new jobs. And next time you’re at the polls, vote for politicians who support effective climate policies.
Support and donate Many organizations, including the David Suzuki Foundation, are working hard on solutions to climate change and rely on financial support from citizens like you. Consider making a donation today by calling 1-800-453-1533 or by visiting our secure website at