5 Signs that Climate Change Needs to Become a Priority for Everyone
Rising temperatures, wild weather, and rising sea levels are only a few of the signs that climate change is a reality that needs to be addressed.
From my column at the Washington Times Communities:
WASHINGTON DC, December 11, 2012- Even though certain researchers and commentators suggest that there is little scientific evidence of climate change or the threat posed by greenhouse gasses, a large part of the scientific community, as well as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have agreed that certain facts about climate change are not in dispute. Some estimates found that since 1991, less that .17% of peer reviewed scientific articles reject global warming.
Climate change is becoming increasingly difficult to deny for even the staunchest of disbelievers, in part because of the definitive signs that are all around us:
1. Rising temperatures
According to NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, since 1880 average temperatures around the globe have increased by 1.4°F (.8°C). What’s worse, the rate of warming has increased since the 1970s with 20 of the warmest years occurring since 1981, and 10 since 2000.
The evidence of rising surface temperatures has never been more evident. As of September of this year, ClimateCentral.org reported that “28,000 daily high-temperature records broken or tied” around the US. This was before the unseasonably mild temperatures that many of us have experienced in the past few weeks. NOAA has a page that tallies recent record totals and is updated daily.
At the same time, since 1950, the number of record low temperatures has been decreasing in the U.S. since 1950, according to NOAA.
2. Rising Sea Levels
According to NASA, the global seal level has risen 6.7 inches (17 centimeters) in the past 100 years. However, in the last decade, the rate of sea level rise has nearly doubled. Several studies estimate that 10% of the world’s population (around 630 million people) live in low- lying areas less than 30 feet above sea level, and could be threatened if sea levels continue to rise.
According to Cynthia Rosenzweig and William Solecki, co-chairmen of the New York City Panel on Climate Change, “Over the past 100 years, data from the tide gauge at the Battery in Lower Manhattan reveal that the region has already experienced close to a foot (9 to 10 inches) of sea level rise.” Even a few inches of sea level rise can have catastrophic effects for cities that were not built with the possibility of monster storms and coastal flooding in mind, as was all too obvious for millions of us in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
3. Melting Ice
Ice is melting everywhere, from shrinking ice sheets to declining Arctic sea ice to retreating glaciers. Ice sheets from Greenland to Antarctica have been shrinking dramatically. NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment found that between 2002 and 2005, Antarctica lost about 36 cubic miles (152 cubic kilometers) of ice per year. Similarly between 2002 and 2006, Greenland lost 36 to 60 cubic miles (150 to 250 cubic kilometers) per year.
During the last few decades, Arctic sea ice has shrunk both in size and thickness. Based on satellite data, the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) found that Arctic sea ice has declined at a rate of 3 to 4% every decade since 1979. There is also evidence that glaciers are retreating around the globe in Africa, Alaska, the Andes, the Himalayas, the Alps, and the Rockies.
4. Changing Oceans
Climate change threatens the world’s oceans in two major ways: warming ocean temperatures and increased acidity of surface ocean waters. Since 1969, according to NASA, the top 2,300 feet of ocean has warmed by 0.302°F. According to marine researchers at Southampton and Plymouth Universities in the UK, even a small change in the ocean’s temperature can threaten marine life and accelerate climate change.
Ocean acidification is a product of CO2 being absorbed into seawater, and has a strong negative impact on calcifying species like coral, oysters, clams, sea urchins, and plankton, which in turn are a vital link in the delicate balance of the oceans’ food chain. According to NOAA, the world’s oceans have experienced a 30% increase in acidity since the Industrial Revolution.
5. CO2 Concentration
CO2 is a heat-trapping greenhouse gas. Even though natural processes like breathing and volcanic eruptions produce CO2, human processes like deforestation and the burning of fossil fuels also release CO2 into the atmosphere. Even though a certain level of CO2 in the atmosphere is inevitable, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased dramatically over the past 60 years. From measurements obtained from ice cores, NASA and NOAA have determined that in the last 400,000 years, the highest historical levels of CO2 in the atmosphere never went above 300 ppm—before 1950. Since the 1950, the record 300 ppm was surpassed and CO2 levels in the atmosphere have risen steadily to the most recent measurement of 395.01 ppm in November of 2012.