Climate skeptics and deniers should read no further. The factual information below will cause them to have acute cognitive dissonance as the facts and figures clash with their entrenched beliefs and fantasies.
I suppose it is coincidental, but recently there has been a spate of reports on the state of the globe, and all point in the one direction, the globe is warming, and the only plausible explanation is the man-made accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
Let’s look first at the recent World Bank-commissioned report, Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must be Avoided
(pdf) (eBook version), carried out by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research
and Climate Analytics
, on behalf of the Bank.
I will quote extensively from an article published on November 18 this year by the Bank: Climate Change Report Warns of Dramatically Warmer World This Century
, which begins with these highlights: “The New World Bank-commissioned report warns the world is on track to a ‘4°C world’ marked by extreme heat waves and life-threatening sea level rise.
“Adverse effects of global warming are “tilted against many of the world's poorest regions” and likely to undermine development efforts and goals.
“In response, the Bank is contemplating increased support for adaptation, mitigation, inclusive green growth, and climate-smart development.”
Drawing attention to this summer’s satellite image of the melting Greenland ice sheet, the report suggests that “…time may be running out to temper the rising risks of climate change”
, and the Bank “…warns we’re on track for a 4°C warmer world marked by extreme heat-waves, declining global food stocks, loss of ecosystems and biodiversity, and life-threatening sea level rise.”
The Bank adds that because the effects of a warming climate are “…tilted against many of the world's poorest regions”,
they are “…likely to undermine development efforts and global development goals”.
The report urges "…further mitigation action as the best insurance against an uncertain future."
Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group insists: "A 4°C warmer world can, and must be, avoided – we need to hold warming below 2°C. Lack of action on climate change threatens to make the world our children inherit a completely different world than we are living in today. Climate change is one of the single biggest challenges facing development, and we need to assume the moral responsibility to take action on behalf of future generations, especially the poorest."
The World Bank article continues: “The report, reviewed by some of the world’s top scientists, is being released ahead of the next comprehensive studies by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2013/14, and follows the Bank’s own Strategic Framework for Development and Climate Change in 2008 and the World Development Report on climate change in 2010. ‘Turn Down the Heat’ combines a synthesis of recent scientific literature with new analysis of likely impacts and risks, focusing on developing countries. It chronicles already observed climate change and impacts, such as heat waves and other extreme events, and offers projections for the 21st century for droughts, heat waves, sea level rise, food, water, ecosystems and human health.
“The report says today’s climate could warm from the current global mean temperature of 0.8°C above pre-industrial levels, to as high as 4°C by 2100, even if countries fulfill current emissions-reduction pledges.
"This report reinforces the reality that today’s climate volatility affects everything we do," said Rachel Kyte, the Bank’s Vice President for Sustainable Development. "We will redouble our efforts to build adaptive capacity and resilience, as well as find solutions to the climate challenge."
“The World Bank doubled lending for climate change adaptation last year and plans to step up efforts to support countries’ initiatives to mitigate carbon emissions and promote inclusive green growth and climate-smart development. Among other measures, the Bank administers the $7.2 billion Climate Investment Funds now operating in 48 countries and leveraging an additional $43 billion in clean investment and climate resilience.”
Let’s look at some details: Rising Sea Levels “The report says sea levels have been rising faster in the last two decades than previously, and this rise is being seen in many tropical regions of the world. This phenomenon is partly due to melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets; the rapid growth in melt area observed since the 1970s in Greenland’s ice sheet is a clear illustration of its increasing vulnerability. Arctic sea ice also reached a record minimum in September 2012. There are indications that the greatest melt extent in the past 225 years has occurred in the last decade. It’s early yet but clearly some of the small island states and coastal communities are beginning to take a hard look at their options. The need to adapt to climate change will increase as global population reaches 9 billion in 2050.” Ocean Acidification “Coral reefs are acutely sensitive to changes in water temperature and acidity levels. The report warns that by the time the warming levels reach 1.4° C in 2030s, coral reefs may stop growing. This would be a result of oceans becoming more acidic as a result of higher CO2 concentrations. And with 2.4° C, coral reefs in several areas may actually start to dissolve. This is likely to have profound consequences for people who depend on them for food, income, tourism and shoreline protection.” Heat Extremes “A 4°C warmer world would also suffer more extreme heat waves, and these events will not be evenly distributed across the world, according to the report.
“Sub-tropical Mediterranean, northern Africa, the Middle East, and the contiguous United States are likely to see monthly summer temperatures rise by more than 6°C. Temperatures of the warmest July between 2080-2100 in the Mediterranean are expected to approach 35°C – about 9°C warmer than the warmest July estimated for the present day. The warmest July month in the Sahara and the Middle East will see temperatures as high as 45°C, or 6-7°C above the warmest July simulated for the present day.” Lower agricultural yields ”Hotter weather could in turn lower crop yields in a 4°C world, raising concerns about future food security. Field experiments have shown that crops are highly sensitive to temperatures above certain thresholds. One study cited in the report found that each “growing degree day” spent at a temperature of 30 degrees decreases yields by 1% under drought-free rain-fed conditions.
“The report also says drought-affected areas would increase from 15.4% of global cropland today, to around 44% by 2100. The most severely affected regions in the next 30 to 90 years will likely be in southern Africa, the United States, southern Europe and Southeast Asia, says the report. In Africa, the report predicts 35% of cropland will become unsuitable for cultivation in a 5°C world.” Risks to Human Support Systems ”The report identifies severe risks related to adverse impacts on water availability, particularly in northern and eastern Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. River basins like the Ganges and the Nile are particularly vulnerable. In Amazonia, forest fires could as much double by 2050. The world could lose several habitats and species with a 4°C warming.” Non-linear impacts ”As global warming approaches and exceeds 2°C, there is a risk of triggering nonlinear tipping elements. Examples include the disintegration of the West Antarctic ice sheet leading to more rapid sea-level rise, or large-scale Amazon dieback drastically affecting ecosystems, rivers, agriculture, energy production, and livelihoods. This would further add to 21st-century global warming and impact entire continents.
“The projected 4°C warming simply must not be allowed to occur—the heat must be turned down. Only early, cooperative, international actions can make that happen". And while the globe is burning, some politicians fiddle, filled with doubt as they are by the skeptics and deniers. It is criminal negligence on a monumental scale.
In case anyone thinks that sitting here down under we might be spared these terrifying consequences of global warming, let’s turn to the evidence, that is verifiable facts and figures presented on the 15 November edition of the ABC’s Catalyst
, where Dr Jonica Newby interviewed several climate scientists. If you missed this informative program, you may wish to view it here
Dr Kenneth Green says: ”In 60 years, we've lost a third of our total snow cover. But there is some rough comfort for my skiing aspirations. And that is that the beginning of the season hasn't really changed.
”So, basically, since 1954, snow depth in July is much the same. When you reach September, it starts to drop off. So that by October it's noticeably less. Essentially, spring is coming earlier.
“It's even clearer when you look at the records for the thaw, now two weeks earlier than in the '60s. And the snowline appears to have lately moved up from 1,500m to 1,600m.
“So we're looking at minimum temperatures. And, Karl, basically, this is how cold it gets at night.”
Dr Karl Braganza:
”That's correct, Jonica. If we start at the Snowy here, we've warmed by about 1.1 degrees since a century ago. And that's similar to Perth, Sydney. If we're looking over here at Cairns, it's almost 2 degrees since 1910.
”So that's night-time minimums, but I bet what most of you are more interested in is what's happened to daytime maximums. And, for that... I'm heading here.”
”You can see here - Sydney through to Melbourne, Canberra, Hobart, they've warmed up by about 0.7 of a degree. And in some capitals a lot less. Adelaide - 0.3. But if you go over to the west - Perth - and into the centre - Alice Springs - you've got 1.1 to almost 2 degrees of warming.
Overall, averaging maximums and minimums, our nation's core temperature has gone up 0.9 of a degree.”
”Alright, so this next diagnostic is... a measure of extremes.”
”It is. And what we've seen is more and more stations are breaking extreme heat in the last 100 years, and less are breaking extreme cold.
In fact, in the last ten years, the number of stations breaking extreme heat records has doubled those breaking extreme cold. So, frosty nights are becoming less common, but extreme heat days are becoming more common.”
Katherine Brown (of Brown Brothers vineyards):
”Talking to our scientists, winemakers and viticulturists, they really pretty much turned to the board and said, 'We have to find this cooler-climate property because within decades we could see a 2-degrees temperature rise in our current vineyards in Victoria.' So, they pretty much told us that if we continued to want to do what we do best, make quality wine, we had to come south.”
”So the chance of one month being above-average temperature, is one in two. The chance of the next month also being above-average temperature, is one in four. The chance of the next month also being above-average temperature, is one in eight.” So what do you think are the chances of having 330 months in a row of above-average temperatures? Because, since February 1985, we have had... 330 months in a row of above-average (global) temperatures.”
Dr Mark Howden:
”It's really extraordinary. If it was just by random chance alone, then there's only a 1 in 100,000 chance that that would have happened in the absence of human influence.” ”It's exciting times for Tasmanian fishermen. With so many new fish arriving, they've teamed up with scientists to plot them. They've seen leather jacks, green turtles, dusky morwong...”
”It's actually really good news for Tasmanian fishermen, because all the New South Wales fish are moving south into our waters.
“All in all, scientists have confirmed 45 new species have, like Brown Brothers, shipped on down to Tassie.”
”Well, obviously, if fish from the big island are moving down, the water here must have got warmer.”
“Alright, Dr Karl. National round-up time again. 100-year health check. Circulation.”
”What we're going to look at now, Jonica, is the sea-surface temperatures around Australia. And what we've seen is about a degree of warming over the last century. But you can see over the East Coast we have more warming than we do over the West Coast. There's some hot spots as well. And that's off the coast of Victoria and Tasmania. Sea temperatures here off Tasmania have risen an astounding 2.28 degrees. That's about four times the global ocean average.”
”When the original records were rediscovered just a decade ago, Dr John Hunter was able to work out what's happened.”
Dr John Hunter:
”OK, the total sea-level rise since 1841 is about 17 centimetres. So, if you raise sea level by just 10 centimetres...
you find you get a tripling of the number of flooding events.
And if you raise it by another 10 centimetres, it goes up by another factor of three, so that's a total of nine.”
”So... so we've got nine times, effectively, the number of flooding events for structures at sea level than we did 100 years ago?”
”So what we're looking at here is basically from the satellite record from 1993. And we can see sea levels have risen everywhere.”
Newby: ”So, now, the last two years' rainfall have been quite extraordinary, haven't they?”
Braganza: ”They have. They've been record-breaking. So, over the last 24-month period, the two years, we've seen more rainfall in Australia for a 24-month period than we've ever seen in the historical record.”
”And tell me - does this have something to do with the fact that the ocean and the air temperatures are higher?”
”Normally, when you get a La Nina event you'll get almost record rainfall in Australia. This time, what we saw was record sea-surface temperatures around Australia. And so we've got basically a perfect storm. We've got a La Nina event. We've got global warming going on in the oceans around Australia. And then we've got this record rainfall as well.”
”Essentially, what the records show is that global warming isn't something that's coming - it's here in our backyards already. It's pointless now to ask, 'Is this climate change or natural variability?' What we see is one acting on top of the other.”
Braganza: ”So, every parcel of air, every ocean current, every weather system is now about a degree warmer. And when you go through and do the physics, that's actually a hell of a lot of energy added to the climate system in general.”
”You know, of all the things I learned on this investigation, it was that comment from Karl that really struck me. It was like, 'Aha! I finally get it.' There's one degree of extra heat across the whole planet. That's just a lot of new energy in our weather system. What happens when you add another degree? And another?” Exactly, what happens? It gets worse and worse, until we get to the tipping point, where no matter what we do, the destructive process continues beyond the control of human beings.
Older people, those who make decisions about what to do about climate change, even if they acknowledge the disaster that looms, see it as far away and slow moving, something they can be relaxed about, something they can take action about when the time comes. What the World Bank Report tells us is that the time to act is NOW. If we don’t, our children and theirs will suffer the terrible consequences.
If you need any more convincing, read what Graham Readfearn had to say in Independent Australia
in a piece titled: The Australian skews climate science… again
that starts with how once more The Australian
has misrepresented climate change science. The YouTube video that accompanies the piece will repay your attention. Make sure too that you scroll to the end where you will see a very revealing dynamic graph that shows how skeptics segment time periods in an attempt to show that the globe is not warming, in fact might be sometimes cooling, whereas if you look at the whole 40-year period the graph shows – 1970-2012, and insert a trend line (in red) the warming trend stands out starkly.
Writing in New Matilda
in Our Role In The Climate Deadlock
, Ben Eltham writes: ”The problem posed by climate change is difficult to overstate. It is global. It is endemic. It is devilishly difficult to address. But address it we must, or our children and grandchildren will inhabit a planet almost unimaginably different from our own: a world of dangerously destabilised climates, devastating natural disasters, flooded cities and dead coral reefs. A world most likely riven by conflict and war. A world in which the global economy struggles against the huge cost of dealing with a preventable global disaster that our generation did little to prevent.”
The ramifications of climate change go way beyond variations in climate. In an article by Tristan Edis in Climate Spectator, John Hewson: Climate change the next sub-prime meltdown
he writes of his interview with Hewson, who has now taken up the Chair of the Asset Owners Disclosure Project, an initiative aimed at getting retirement and superannuation funds to pay more heed to the risks of climate change and the need to invest more money in companies that reduce carbon emissions. Hewson ”equates climate change as equivalent in its likely impacts on financial markets to that of the sub-prime loan crisis that led to the GFC. He also points out that governments across the globe are subsidizing carbon intensive industries, and board members can no longer afford to turn a blind eye to the risks associated with investing in these industries.”
Again in Climate Spectator
Julian Poulter writes in The climate for super fear
: ”The largest pool of money in the world is held by the big pension and superannuation funds – called the ‘Asset Owners’. They have a fiduciary duty to us to invest wisely and the unique risk-return challenge of climate change and other ESG issues (Environment, Social, Governance) have prompted us in recent times to question whether they are carrying out their duties.
“The problem arises because we know that the Asset Owners give our money to fund managers who in turn invest in companies. And sages that we are, we have a sneaky suspicion that some of the investments aren’t sustainable and that in the context of climate change, we might wake up one day with the mixed news that the low carbon economy is fully underway but our retirement savings portfolios that are currently stuffed with high carbon assets are worth dramatically less than they were yesterday. And when this sudden low carbon tipping point occurs, causing inevitable portfolio destruction, it won’t be like the sub-prime crisis where the highly technical complexity of the issue engaged us all for months allowing everyone to avoid true scrutiny. No, this is climate change – it’s simple and we’ve been talking about it for years and trustees cannot now escape.” In the face of all this evidence, in the face of all these warnings, how can anyone take a cavalier attitude to climate change, how can anyone ignore the reality of global warming so recklessly? The only explanation is that these people are the climate equivalent of the Obama ‘birthers’ and the Creationists who believe the planet is only 6000 years old, who cast aside evidence, ignore verifiable facts, so that their beliefs, their ‘faith’ can hold sway.
These people can never be convinced. But there must be some rational people out there who if they knew the facts would be so scared out of their wits for the welfare of their grandchildren that they would act, and would support any government that was acting decisively to mitigate the effects of climate change, even if the cost was high. The cost of not acting is much, much higher.
We must counter the deniers and skeptics. The survival of the human race, and indeed all living things, depends on it.
What do you think? UPDATE 29 November 2012
Since writing this piece, two further reports on global warming have emerged that will repay your attention.
The first was: UN Report: Melting Permafrost Seen as New Peril in Global Warming
that alerts us to the extreme danger of the release of the powerful greenhouse gas, methane, from melting permafrost in the Arctic.
It began: ”Permafrost lands across Siberia and Alaska that contain vast stores of carbon are beginning to thaw, bringing with it the threat of a big increase in global warming by 2100, a U.N. report said on Tuesday.
“A thaw of the vast areas of permanently frozen ground in Russia, Canada, China and the United States also threatens local homes, roads, railways and oil pipelines, the U.N. Environment Program (UNEP) said in the report which was released at the U.N. climate talks being held this week and next in Qatar.
“Permafrost has begun to thaw,” Kevin Schaefer, lead author at the University of Colorado told a news conference in Doha.
“An accelerating melt would free vast amounts of carbon dioxide and methane, which has been trapped in organic matter in the subsoil, often for thousands of years, the report said.
“Warming permafrost could release the equivalent of between 43 and 135 billion tons of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, by 2100. That would be up to 39 percent of annual emissions from human sources.
“Permafrost now contains 1,700 billion tons of carbon, or twice the amount now in the atmosphere, it said.
The second came out today from the Doha talks. It is reported in The New York Times
in an article Global Warming & Climate Change (Doha Talks, 2012.UN Report: Melting Permafrost Seen as New Peril in Global Warming
that begins: ”Global warming has become perhaps the most complicated issue facing world leaders. Warnings from the scientific community are becoming louder, as an increasing body of science points to rising dangers from the ongoing buildup of human-related greenhouse gases — produced mainly by the burning of fossil fuels and forests.
“Global emissions of carbon dioxide jumped by the largest amount on record in 2010, upending the notion that the brief decline during the recession might persist through the recovery. The increase solidified a trend of ever-rising emissions that scientists fear will make it difficult, if not impossible, to forestall severe climate change in coming decades.”
There is another version published in Salon: Area of Arctic sea ice larger than US melted this year U.N. weather agency released worrying report at Doha talks
. It begins: ”An area of Arctic sea ice bigger than the United States melted this year, according the U.N. weather agency, which said the dramatic decline illustrates that climate change is happening “before our eyes.”
“In a report released at U.N. climate talks in the Qatari capital of Doha, the World Meteorological Organization said the Arctic ice melt was one of a myriad of extreme and record-breaking weather events to hit the planet in 2012. Droughts devastated nearly two-thirds of the United States as well western Russia and southern Europe. Floods swamped west Africa and heat waves left much of the Northern Hemisphere sweltering.
“But it was the ice melt that seemed to dominate the annual climate report, with the U.N. concluding ice cover had reached “a new record low” in the area around the North Pole and that the loss from March to September was a staggering 11.83 million square kilometers (4.57 million square miles) – an area bigger than the United States.
“The alarming rate of its melt this year highlighted the far-reaching changes taking place on Earth’s oceans and biosphere,” WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said. “Climate change is taking place before our eyes and will continue to do so as a result of the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which have risen constantly and again reached new records.”
“The dire climate news – following on the heels of a report Tuesday that found melting permafrost could significantly amplify global warming – comes as delegates from nearly 200 countries struggled for a third day to lay the groundwork for a deal that would cut emissions in an attempt to ensure that temperatures don’t rise more than 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) over what they were in preindustrial times. Temperatures have already risen about 0.8 degrees C (1.4 degrees F), according to the latest report by the IPCC.” These reports are scary.