As in we humans living on this planet.
Next Saturday I am giving a talk to our local Freethinkers and Humanists group on climate change. As a result of this I was doing some research on the subject and I thought that I would share what I found with you.
But first may I say that the new King of the United Kingdom, King Charles III, may not have ages and ages on the throne but he is a committed environmentalist. In a recent VoA article the Prince of Wales, as he was then, reported that when Charles opened the COP26 climate summit, held in Scotland last year, and gave the opening speech, urging world leaders seated in front of him to redouble their efforts to confront global warming, he warned: “Time has quite literally run out.”
It is us!
The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) kicked off its 2021 report with the following statement: “It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land.”
A little later the article says: It took a while, but climate modelling is now refined enough to predict how things would go without human influence, within a margin of error. What we are observing today, however, is beyond that margin of error, therefore proving that we have driven the change.
It is getting hot
The last decade was the hottest in 125,000 years. There are a number of graphs to support this. Here is one:
One of the facts of having a water world, 71% of the Earth’s surface is water-covered, and the oceans hold about 96.5% of all Earth’s water, is that a 2019 study found that oceans had sucked up 90% of the heat gained by the planet between 1971 and 2010. Another found that it absorbed 20 sextillion joules of heat in 2020 – equivalent to two Hiroshima bombs per second.
In fact CO2 levels are now the highest that they have been in 2 million years. Today, they stand at close to 420 parts per million (ppm). To put that into context pre-industrial levels, before 1750, had CO2 levels around 280 parts per million.
We are losing ice big time
I can do no better than to quote from Earth.org: Since the mid-1990s, we’ve lost around 28 trillion tons of ice, with today’s melt rate standing at 1.2 trillion tons a year. To help put that into perspective, the combined weight of all human-made things is 1.1 trillion tons. That’s about the same weight as all living things on earth.
I repeat: Every single year we are losing 1,200,000,000,000 tons of ice!
We can now attribute natural disasters to human-driven climate change with certainty. We can now say with precision how much likelier we made things like the North American summer 2021 heatwave, which the World Weather Attribution says was “virtually impossible” without climate change as well as the Indian heatwave, which experts believe it was made 30 times more likely because of climate change.
Climate change mitigation
There is a long and comprehensive article on the above subject on WikiPedia. I will quote from the paragraph Needed emissions cuts.
If emissions remain on the current level of 42 GtCO2, the carbon budget for 1.5 °C could be exhausted in 2028. (That’s 42 gigatones, as in 1 gigaton is a unit of explosive force equal to one billion (109) tons of trinitrotoluene (TNT).
In 2022, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its Sixth Assessment Report on climate change, warning that greenhouse gas emissions must peak before 2025 at the latest and decline 43% by 2030, in order to likely limit global warming to 1.5°C (2.7°F). Secretary-general of the United Nations, António Guterres, clarified that for this “Main emitters must drastically cut emissions starting this year”.
Then just before that paragraph WikiPedia reports that: The UNFCCC aims to stabilize greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations in the atmosphere at a level where ecosystems can adapt naturally to climate change, food production is not threatened, and economic development can proceed in a sustainable fashion. Currently human activities are adding CO2 to the atmosphere faster than natural processes can remove it.
We need to act now, otherwise…
… it will be too late for billions of us.
This may be the most catastrophic of our climate change facts. As of now, only 0.8% of the planet’s land surface has mean annual temperatures above 29°C, mostly in the Sahara desert and Saudi Arabia (solid black in the map below).
A study by Xu et al. (2020) called “Future of the Human Niche” found that by 2070, under a high emissions scenario, these unbearable temperatures could expand to affect up to 3 billion people (dark brown areas).
Doing nothing is much worse than doing something
On the current path, climate change could end up costing us 11 to 14% of the global GDP by mid-century. Regression into a high emissions scenario would mean an 18% loss, while staying below 2°C would reduce the damage to only 4%.
It has been proposed that ending climate change would take between $300 billion and $50 trillion over the next two decades. Even if $50 trillion is the price tag, that comes down to $2.5 trillion a year, or just over 3% of the global GDP.
Climate change is an incredibly complex phenomenon, and there are many other things happening that were not covered above.
These are the facts. There is no disputing them. Jean and I are relatively immune from the effects, because of our ages, but not entirely so. The last few weeks with the imminent risk of our property being damaged by wildfires is one example. The last three winters being below average rainfall is another. But it is the youngsters I fear most for. On a personal note, my daughter and husband have a son and he is now 12. What sort of world is he growing up in?
So here is a view of the global population of young people.
Just before I close let me show you my final chart. It goes to show our attitudes.
I am not a political animal. However I recognise that it is our leaders, globally, but especially in the top 10 countries in the world, who have to be leaders! Here are the top 10 countries.
So, please, dear leader, make this the number one priority for your country and for the world (areas of their country in square kilometres): Russia. 17,098,242, Canada. 9,984,670, United States. 9,826,675, China. 9,596,961, Brazil. 8,514,877, Australia. 7,741,220, India. 3,287,263 and Argentina. 2,780,400.