Quantcast

We Can’t Hide From Global Warming’s Consequences

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

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

Flames and smoke are seen billowing from the roof at Notre-Dame Cathedral on April 15 in Paris, France. Veronique de Viguerie / Getty Images

When Paris's Notre Dame caught fire on April 15, the flames threatened more than eight centuries of culture and history. The fire evoked shock, horror and grief worldwide. While the cathedral burned, French President Emmanuel Macron expressed determination to rebuild what the French regard as a sacred site.

Read More Show Less
An artist's impression of NASA's InSight lander on Mars. NASA / JPL-CALTECH

Scientists have likely detected a so-called marsquake — an earthquake on Mars — for the first time, The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced on Tuesday.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Hero Images / Getty Images

Across the political aisle, a majority of American parents support teaching climate change in schools even though most teachers currently do not.

Read More Show Less
Priit Siimon / flickr / cc

By Andrea Germanos

Lawyer and visionary thinker Polly Higgins, who campaigned for ecocide to be internationally recognized as a crime on par with genocide and war crimes, died Sunday at the age of 50.

She had been diagnosed with an aggressive cancer last month and given just weeks to live.

Read More Show Less
Pixabay

An E. coli outbreak linked to ground beef has spread to 10 states and infected at least 156 people, CNN reported Wednesday.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
The Anopheles stephensi mosquito, which carries malaria. CDC / Jim Gathany

The world's first malaria vaccine was launched in Malawi on Tuesday, NPR reported. It's an important day in health history. Not only is it the first malaria vaccine, it's the first vaccine to target any human parasite.

Read More Show Less
Ice-rich permafrost has been exposed due to coastal erosion, National Petroleum Reserve, Alaska. Brandt Meixell / USGS


By Jake Johnson

An alarming study released Tuesday found that melting Arctic permafrost could add nearly $70 trillion to the global cost of climate change unless immediate action is taken to slash carbon emissions.

According to the new research, published in the journal Nature Communications, melting permafrost caused by accelerating Arctic warming would add close to $70 trillion to the overall economic impact of climate change if the planet warms by 3°C by 2100.

Read More Show Less
Jeff Reed / NYC Council

The New York City Council last week overwhelmingly passed one of the most ambitious and innovative legislative packages ever considered by any major city to combat the existential threat of climate change.

Read More Show Less