Climate change—accelerating—The evidence that the warming of our planet is human-caused, and that it is happening faster than previously thought, continues to rise along with the temperature. A study by Stanford climate scientists Noah Diffenbaugh and Chris Field, appearing in the current issue of Science, warns that the likely rate of change over the next century will be at least 10 times quicker than any climate shift in the past 65 million years. They conclude that without intervention, this extreme pace could lead to a 5-6 degree Celsius spike in annual
temperatures by the end of the century. The ramifications of this rise would be staggering:
- Sea level rise would inundate low-lying areas and islands, threaten dense coastal populations, erode shorelines, damage property and destroy ecosystems such as mangroves and wetlands that protect coasts against storms. All major US east coast cities would experience flooding and extensive damage.
- Higher temperatures increase the amount of moisture that evaporates from land and water, leading to drought in many areas. Lands affected by drought are more vulnerable to flooding once rain falls.
- Hot temperatures and dry conditions also increase the likelihood of forest fires. In the conifer forests of the western United States, earlier snowmelts, longer summers and an increase in spring and summer temperatures have increased fire frequency by 400 percent and have increased the amount of land burned by 650 percent since 1970. We are seeing these effects this summer.
- Scientific research indicates that climate change will cause hurricanes and tropical storms to become more intense–lasting longer, unleashing stronger winds, and causing more damage to coastal ecosystems and communities.
- Rising temperatures are changing weather and vegetation patterns across the globe, forcing animal species to migrate to new, cooler areas in order to survive.
- The rapid nature of climate change is likely to exceed the ability of many species to migrate or adjust. Experts predict that one-fourth of Earth’s species will be headed for extinction by 2050 if the warming trend continues at its current rate. Polar bears may already be doomed.
Climate change deniers continue to ignore these threats and the overwhelming evidence that fossil fuel emissions are bringing about this dramatic and unprecedented upswing in global temperatures. But the evidence just gets stronger and stronger. The Fifth Assessment Report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is due next month. Drafts of the study include the conclusion that it is at least 95 percent likely that
human activities (primarily the burning of fossil fuels) are the main cause of warming. That likelihood has risen from 50% in 1995, to 66% in 2001, to 90% in the 2007 report, suggesting that expert opinion is swiftly moving toward a unanimous conclusion.
What you can do—Let your federal legislators and President Obama know that more must be done to combat climate change—and soon. The president is promoting natural gas from fracking as a way to reduce greenhouse gases, but leaking methane from production, transport and storage of natural gas creates more warming than any benefits from this fuel. The federal government must redouble its support for alternate
energy, including properly sited solar and wind facilities, and increase promotion of energy efficiency programs. In particular, Congressman Chris Gibson has stood with Republicans in the House of Representatives to block funding and legislation that could move the country in this direction. He needs to hear about the severe costs of climate change that would dwarf the investments that could cut greenhouse emissions now.
To find out how to contact your representatives and the president, Click Here.