More than a couple of our past blog posts have covered how increasingly extreme weather is the product of climate change. However, have you stopped to ask yourself what that really means? How will climate change affect us and future generations? What things that we currently enjoy will be unavailable to our children?
A recent article covers some things that global warming is likely to ruin for our kids; things such as coffee, chocolate, strawberries. And the list isn’t limited to agricultural food items. Say goodbye to blazing fast Wi-Fi. Also your favorite vacation spot or even your home may be underwater in a few, short decades time. The country you live in may disappear. The article has some shocking images of Greenland melting away.
So what’s it going to take to help preserve the Earth as we know it? Global carbon emissions need to be reduced 80% by 2050. The U.S. has already pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by approximately 17%. Eventually legislation will be enacted increasing the goal to a 30% reduction in 2025 and a 42% reduction in 2030, with the ultimate goal of reducing emissions 83% by 2050.
Do your part in reducing carbon emissions and getting us closer to meeting the goals outlined above. Start by switching your Internet browser to www.envirosearch.org. Your regular, daily Internet search activities will begin contributing to renewable energy, reforestation, and energy efficiency projects. Then go to www.carbonfund.org for ideas on how to reduce your carbon footprint and offset carbon emissions. By working together, and each doing our part, we can change the fate of the planet.
The Earth is 70% covered by oceans, and stores about 90% of the planet’s heat. This means that ocean warming translates into global warming. Climate change deniers contend that global warming is not caused by greenhouse gas emissions, but rather by natural processes and variations. However, a study released this week proves with 99% certainty that no more than 10% of the observed increase in ocean temperatures over the past 50 years could be accounted for by natural variation.
The Human-Induced Global Ocean Warming on Multidecadal Timescales study is the most comprehensive study ever performed on rising ocean temperatures, and authored by a team of American, Indian, Japanese, and Australian scientists. According to the study, the planet’s oceans are warming at a rate of 0.20°F per decade, which affects global weather patterns leading to increasing weather extremes such as more heat waves, storms, and intense storms. Furthermore, ocean warming affects the ocean ecology itself. A few of the effects we’ve already begun to see are plankton reduction, melting sea ice, and coral die-off.
The study unequivocally points to global warming as man-made. Of course, this has been known, shown and settled for nearly twenty years by the IPCC and climate scientists around the world. But the shift to ocean warming is significant due to its proportion of the Earth and its surface as well as because the vast majority of the people on Earth live very close to rising oceans.
Four or five years ago we shifted from the question of ‘is it happening’ to ‘what to do about it’. Political and business interests have worked hard to shift this debate back again, but the real focus must remain on the numerous solutions to climate change and the dwindling timeline we have to reduce our global emissions 50-80% by mid century.
Download the full study at this link: http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/v2/n7/full/nclimate1553.html
New information is coming to light about the massive collapse of one of the world’s oldest and earliest urban civilizations. The Harappan, or Indus, civilization came into being over 4,000 years ago and existed for about 600 years before it slowly disappeared. Scientists and scholars have hypothesized about its demise. Theories range from regional conflicts to a foreign attack, but some suggest environmental issues may have been the cause.
Researchers recently published an article named, “Fluvial landscapes of the Harappan civilization” in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences outlining evidence that points to environmental factors leading to the end of this ancient civilization. The scientists studied satellite maps and collected field sediment samples, then cross-referenced them with previous archaeological findings to develop a much clearer picture of what really happened to this long-lost civilization.
The Harappan civilization is named for one of its largest cities, and occupied what is now India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and part of Afghanistan. It had a sophisticated indoor plumbing system, gridded streets, a flourishing arts and crafts community, and what appears to be a more democratic society than other large civilizations such as Egypt or Mesopotamia.
The Harappans were largely dependent upon monsoons that dried up leading to the end of their urban environment. They used the rivers and seasonal floods that were fed by these monsoons to meet their agricultural needs. Once the monsoons weakened, people slowly moved eastward away from cities into small villages and towns. The water in the area they moved to was unable to support the large cities of the past.
There are lessons to be learned from the extinction of this colossal civilization. The Harappans were overly dependent on monsoons that eventually disappeared and the U.S. is also largely dependent on somewhat predictable weather, which is now threatened by climate change. Americans need to prepare for increasingly extreme weather, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and increase energy efficiency, and we need to do it now before we suffer a similar fate to that of the Harappans.
The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) released a report on Wednesday, May 23, 2012 that estimates 150,000 additional American deaths in the country’s top 40 cities by 2100 due to the excessive heat caused by climate change.
The top three deadliest cities outlined in the analysis of peer-reviewed data include Louisville, Detroit, and Cleveland. Some other cities projected to have thousands of heat related deaths by the end of the century are Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Columbus, Denver, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, Providence, St. Louis and Washington, D.C.
Why cities? Because that is where two-thirds of the U.S. population lives, and many municipal services there are not prepared to help people effectively beat the heat. Urban areas have high concentrations of poor with little to no access to air conditioning. Although everyone is at risk, children, the elderly, the obese, and those on medication are the most vulnerable.
We’re already seeing how global warming can kill with hundreds of heat related deaths annually. Extreme heat causes heat exhaustion and heat stroke and worsens illnesses such as cardiovascular disease and kidney disease. In 2006, a two-week long heat wave in California caused 655 deaths, 1,620 excess hospitalizations, and more than 16,000 additional emergency room visits, resulting in nearly $5.4 billion in costs. However, Chicago had an even deadlier record-setting heat wave in 1995 when more than 700 people died due to the excessive heat.
Some cities are learning from their experiences or heeding the warnings, and strengthening their municipal services. Chicago, Philadelphia, and Seattle have already put measures in place to lessen the risk from excessive heat days. Measures include improving the city’s heat warning system, emergency services, and establishing cooling centers.
There is hope; we can save lives by reducing emissions and improving emergency services. Some examples of climate change mitigation are supporting reforestation projects and using more renewable energy such as wind energy.
Read the report and get more information at http://www.nrdc.org/globalwarming/killer-heat/.
If you read our earlier blog post on the connection between extreme weather and climate change http://carbonfund.org/blog/item/4605-un-climate-panel-report-links-global-warming-and-weather-extremes, you’re already aware of this issue and have connected the dots to an extent. But perhaps you walked away from the blog post asking yourself, what can I do about climate change? Well here is an event in which you can participate. This Saturday, May 5, 2012 is Climate Impacts Day.
Climate Impacts Day is a global day of action that spotlights people around the world who are connecting the dots between extreme weather and climate change. The focus of individual events varies among assorted communities spanning the globe. Follow this link to find an event near you. http://act.climatedots.org/event/impacts_en/search/#
Next steps after connecting the dots between extreme weather and climate change are to connect the dots to solutions. Clean energy, food-based initiatives, and political organizing for climate action are just a few solutions anyone can put their efforts toward to address climate change and its impacts.
There are also a couple things we can do regarding the impact of climate change. We must adapt to the impacts that are we are already seeing, and the impacts we know are coming. Then it’s important to organize to make our governments and businesses take the bold action needed to prevent the truly catastrophic effects of climate change, the effects to which we cannot adapt. This includes eliminating the use of fossil fuels and moving to renewable power sources as soon as possible.
Extreme weather and climate change may seem like a far-off problem, but it is here and there is something everyone can do. Attend a Climate Impacts Day event. Learn more at http://www.climatedots.org/.