Quantcast
Insights
Sea level rise is a natural consequence of the warming of our planet. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

We Can’t Hide From Global Warming’s Consequences

Over the past few months, heat records have broken worldwide.

In early July, the temperature in Ouargla, Algeria, reached 51.3°C (124.34°F), the highest ever recorded in Africa! Temperatures in the eastern and southwestern U.S. and southeastern Canada have also hit record highs. In Montreal, people sweltered under temperatures of 36.6°C (97.88°F), the highest ever recorded there, as well as record-breaking extreme midnight heat and humidity, an unpleasant experience shared by people in Ottawa. Dozens of people have died from heat-related causes in Quebec alone.


Europe, Eurasia and the Middle East have also reached all-time record temperatures. In Northern Siberia, along the Arctic coast, the temperature was over 32°C (89.6°F) on July 5, much hotter than ever recorded.

Unusually high temperatures in the Arctic are causing sea ice to melt, exposing more dark sea areas, which absorb more heat than ice, causing feedback loops. Those are exacerbated by melting permafrost releasing more methane and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. All of it is weakening the polar jet stream, which in turn affects temperatures in mid-latitudes.

As U.S. meteorologist and geoscientist Nick Humphrey explains, "The weakening is causing the polar jet to become much wavier, with greater wave 'breaks' and blocking patterns where waves sit in the same place for weeks [and] promote extreme weather patterns (extreme cold relative to normal as well as extreme heat, very wet, and drought conditions)."

Atmospheric carbon dioxide has spiked to 408 parts per million, global average temperatures have risen 1.8°C since 1880, Arctic ice is declining at 13.2 percent per decade, sea levels are rising 3.2 millimeters (approximately .13 inches) a year on average and it's all accelerating as we continue to pump more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and destroy more carbon sinks like forests and wetlands.

According to NASA, "Most of the warming occurred in the past 35 years, with 16 of the 17 warmest years on record occurring since 2001. Not only was 2016 the warmest year on record, but eight of the 12 months that make up the year—from January through September, with the exception of June—were the warmest on record for those respective months."

As equatorial zones heat up, creating drought, water shortages, agricultural losses and inhospitable conditions, we can expect to see more refugees fleeing to cooler areas with better resources.

Despite the calamity unfolding before our eyes, many people and organizations still cast doubt on climate science and scientists, and politicians and governments fight against the very measures critical to addressing the crisis and ensuring the planet's climate remains stable enough for good human health and survival.

Although some people argue that climate always changes, NASA scientists explain that evidence of past warming from ice cores, tree rings, ocean sediments, coral reefs and layers of sedimentary rocks show that "current warming is occurring roughly ten times faster than the average rate of ice-age-recovery warming."

We've known about the heat-trapping properties of CO2 and other gases since the mid 1800s. Again, NASA points out, "There is no question that increased levels of greenhouse gases must cause the Earth to warm in response."

The reasons we've failed to adequately confront the problem have nothing to do with lack of evidence or solutions. We have an abundance of both, but industrial interests and their supporters in media and politics (along with those who have been duped into denial) have actively worked to downplay the problem and hamper progress.

In our book Just Cool It!, we outline numerous known and emerging ways for governments, institutions, industry and individuals to resolve the climate crisis. Many solutions are being employed or developed, but not fast enough to forestall catastrophe. In Canada, we have federal and provincial governments hell-bent on expanding fossil fuel infrastructure and development to reap as much profit as possible from a dying industry and to satisfy the vagaries of short election cycles. The fossil fuel industry continues to receive massive subsidies, including a multi-billion-dollar taxpayer bailout for an American pipeline company, while clean energy receives far less support.

It's frightening to contemplate global warming, the changes required to confront it and the consequences we face in the coming years. But stalling solutions and continuing our fossil fuel addiction will only make the inevitable that much worse.

David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation senior editor Ian Hanington.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Food
Workers collect salt crystals on Aug. 22 at Aigues-Mortes where the salt pans cover 10,000 hectares. PASCAL GUYOT / AFP / Getty Images

90% of Table Salt Is Contaminated With Mircroplastics

By Julia Conley

A year after researchers at a New York university discovered microplastics present in sea salt thanks to widespread plastic pollution, researchers in South Korea set out to find out how pervasive the problem is—and found that 90 percent of salt brands commonly used in homes around the world contain the tiny pieces of plastic.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
Japan's cherry blossoms are unexpectedly blooming this autumn. Coniferconifer / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Cherry Blossoms are Blooming Across Japan. It's October.

Each year, Japan's iconic cherry blossoms herald the arrival of spring. But after a bout of extreme weather, blooms are being reported several months early.

The Japanese weather site Weathernews said it had received more than 350 reports of blossoms throughout the country. The flowers usually appear in March or April.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Bloede Dam removal in process. Maryland Department of Natural Resources Fishing and Boating Services / YouTube

4 Exciting Dam-Removal Projects to Watch

By Tara Lohan

For much of the 20th century humans got really good at dam building. Dams—embraced for their flood protection, water storage and electricity generation—drove industry, built cities and helped turn deserts into farms. The United States alone has now amassed more than 90,000 dams, half of which are 25 feet tall or greater.

Keep reading... Show less
Food
FoodPrint helps identify local and seasonal produce with its Seasonal Food Guide. FoodPrint / Facebook

Find Out Your 'Foodprint': New Website Helps You Shop, Cook and Eat More Sustainably

Two days after World Food Day, an innovative nonprofit has launched a website to help you reduce the environmental impact of the food you eat.

FoodPrint, designed by GRACE Communications Foundation, was created to educate consumers about everything that goes into common food items, from farm to fridge, so that they can make sustainable choices.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Politics
Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler testified Aug. 1 before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Win McNamee / Getty Images

Acting EPA Head Is Still Unconfirmed After 100+ Days in Position

Andrew Wheeler, the acting administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), might continue to oversee the office without Senate confirmation until President Trump's term is over, according to reports from Bloomberg and the Huffington Post.

The former coal lobbyist has been the temporary EPA boss for more than 100 days ever since his predecessor Scott Pruitt resigned in July after a long list of ethics scandals.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Volunteers prepare to take flow measurements on Muddy Creek. Centre County Pennsylvania Senior Environmental Corps / CC BY-ND

How Monitoring Local Water Supplies Can Build Community

By John M. Carroll

Water insecurity is a touchstone for 2018. Our planet isn't running out of water, but various kinds of mismanagement have led to local water crises across the planet, directly threatening millions of people.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate
Inti St Clair / Getty Images

When It Comes to Sustainability, We’re a Society of Distracted Drivers

By Richard Heinberg

Driving is dangerous. In fact, it's about the riskiest activity most of us engage in routinely. It requires one's full attention—and even then, things can sometimes go horribly awry. The brakes fail. Weather turns roads to ice. A driver in the oncoming lane falls asleep. Tragedy ensues. But if we're asleep at the wheel, the likelihood of calamity skyrockets. That's why distracted driving is legally discouraged: no cell phones, no reading newspapers or books, no hanky-panky with the front-seat passenger. If you're caught, there's a hefty fine.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
Last month's temperatures across land and sea tied with 2017 as the fourth highest for September in the 1880-2018 record. NOAA

2018 Likely to Rank as Fourth-Hottest Year on Record

After a summer of record-breaking heatwaves and devastating wildfires, 2018 is shaping up to be one of the planet's hottest years in recorded history.

From January through September, the average global temperature was 1.39°F above the 20th century average of 57.5°F, making it the fourth warmest year-to-date on record, and only 0.43°F lower than the record-high set in 2016 for the same period, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ( NOAA) announced Wednesday. NOAA's global temperature dataset record dates back to 1880.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!