Monday, August 5, 2019

The World Keeps Warming as We are Running Out of Time

We are seeing heatwaves break records all around the world. From India to Alaska, records are falling as record breaking heat is becoming the new norm.  After a brutal heatwave in the middle of July, Europe suffered through yet another heatwave as the month drew to a close. More than a dozen countries in Europe recently broke heat records including Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and the UK.

Global heat records are also being broken. After the hottest month of June on record, the EU's Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) reported that last month was the hottest July on record breaking the record set in 2016. According to Copernicus, every month this year is among the four warmest on record.

As reported by CNN, Petteri Taalas, secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organization, said last week that this July has "rewritten climate history, with dozens of new temperature records at the local, national and global level...This is not science fiction. It is the reality of climate change. It is happening now, and it will worsen in the future without urgent climate action. Time is running out to rein in dangerous temperature increases with multiple impacts on our planet." 

This is but the latest indication that the world is warming at an unprecedented rate. While scientists caution against attributing any single weather event to the climate crisis, attribution studies and decades of hot data make a convincing case for a changing climate. We know with certainty that this picture is consistent with climate predictions related to rising levels of atmospheric GHGs.

As Dr Freja Vamborg from Copernicus told BBC News, "that trend is not likely to stop unless we do something about curbing greenhouse gas emissions."

The steady drumbeat of heatwaves and record breaking temperatures is a call to action. Even more than the temperature records being set in the rest of the world, the extreme warming in the Arctic is cause for concern. 

"This is yet more evidence that we're heading for a much hotter world if we allow carbon emissions to continue to rise," said Dr Katherine Kramer from Christian Aid.

As reported by the BBC's Matt McGrath, "there's a growing consensus that the next 18 months will be critical in dealing with the global heating crisis, among other environmental challenges". The IPCC has indicated that to keep temperatures from increasing above the upper temperature threshold limit of 1.5C we will need to see consorted global action before the end of next year if we are to succeed in slashing carbon emissions by the required amount (45% by 2030). Last year's IPCC report indicated that to reach this goal global emissions must peak by 2020 and rapidly decline thereafter. We are nowhere near where we need to be to make this happen.

"I am firmly of the view that the next 18 months will decide our ability to keep climate change to survivable levels and to restore nature to the equilibrium we need for our survival," said Prince Charles, speaking at a reception for Commonwealth foreign ministers recently.

The key to combating the climate crisis will be the removal of Donald Trump from power in the U.S. presidential elections scheduled for November, 2020.  The fate of the Earth demands that all nations rise up to confront the existential threats posed by a rapidly warming world.

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