The world won't forgive if our leaders don’t act on climate change - Steve Cardownie

Last year was the warmest year on record. Massive wildfires scorched Australia, Siberia and the west coast of the United States prompting Lesley Ott, a research meteorologist at NASA, to say that it was “ a very striking example of what it is like to live under some of the most severe effects of climate change that we’ve been predicting.”

By Steve Cardownie
Wednesday, 4th August 2021, 4:55 am
Climate change and longer, drier spells of weather for some are known to contribute to wildfires, such as those experienced in California last year.  An orange sky filled with wildfire smoke hangs above hiking trails at the Limeridge Open Space in Concord. PIC: Getty.
Climate change and longer, drier spells of weather for some are known to contribute to wildfires, such as those experienced in California last year. An orange sky filled with wildfire smoke hangs above hiking trails at the Limeridge Open Space in Concord. PIC: Getty.

Greenhouse gas emissions are largely responsible for warming the planet as burning fossil fuels like oil, natural gas and coal releases greenhouse gasses , such as carbon dioxide, into the Earth’s atmosphere, where they act like an insulating blanket which, in turn, traps heat near the Earth’s surface.

Carbon dioxide levels have increased by almost 50% in the last 250 years and the amount of methane in the atmosphere has almost doubled in the same period resulting in the Earth warming by just over 1 degree Celsius.

We are also seeing the continuous loss of ice around the globe as, according to research by NASA, we are losing around 13.1% of Arctic sea ice every ten years. Studies of sea ice thickness have also shown that it is a lot thinner than it used to be. Given that Arctic sea ice acts like an insulating barrier, preventing the ocean from heating the atmosphere, it is a real cause for concern. In addition sea ice is so bright that it reflects heat energy from the Sun away from Earth which, if not, would be absorbed by darker ocean waters, resulting in higher sea surface temperatures.

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Last year also saw extremely heavy rainfall and flooding in several parts of Asia and Africa causing death and destruction throughout the regions. South America suffered severe droughts with northern Argentina, Paraguay and western areas of Brazil being some of the worst affected.

Research published this year found that weather such as that witnessed during the bush fires that burned fiercely in Australia in 2019/20 has become at least 30% more likely since 1900 as a result of human caused climate change. Dr Andrew King, a lecturer in climate science at the University of Melbourne, stated “ Severe floods and tropical cyclones impacted different regions of the world and for several of these events, particularly heatwaves and wild fires, there is evidence that human-caused climate change has contributed to their severity.”

So, the huge wildfires, intense hurricanes, ice loss and floods that we are currently witnessing have been identified as a direct consequence of human induced climate change and, what’s more, they are predicted to escalate into the next decade, particularly if greenhouse gas emissions are allowed to continue at their present rate.

So all eyes will be on the forthcoming 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, due to be held at the Scottish Exhibition Centre in Glasgow in November as, under the Paris Agreement (2015,) each country is expected to submit enhanced, nationally determined contributions every five years, to ratchet up ambition to mitigate climate change. As the conference was postponed last year, the new targets will be revealed this year and populations throughout the globe will not readily forgive world leaders if they shirk their responsibility and fail to take the necessary action.

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