Global Warming: Just How Much Can Earth Take?
The Nature Climate Change Journal Reports Global Temperatures to Rise 3.6 Degrees Fahrenheit by Next Century
Global warming is a nebulous term. Few scientists can provide a layman’s definition of the concept. Even fewer are confidently predicting the consequences of global warming. But around the globe, individuals, corporations, and governments commit tremendous amounts of time and money on global warming research.
The amount of research pertaining to greenhouse gases, global warming, and climate change indicates the seriousness of the issues.
What We Think We Know about Global Warming and What We Need to Know
CNN reported in July of 2017 that two independent studies, “using entirely different methods,” reported to very similar findings. Both reports claim global temperatures will rise by 3.6 degrees by the end of the century.
Scientists are relatively certain the globe is going to get hotter. But, we are not sure what the consequences will be. That uncertainty leads to more questions.
There are countless questions regarding global warming:
•Is it even possible for us to stop using fossil fuels?
•If not, how much emissions can we put into the air without changing the atmosphere?
•What are the consequences of climate change?
•Can we reverse global warming, or, are we at the point of no return?
•Will it mean our extinction, or will we just evolve and adapt?
But, at the end of the day, one question is more important than all others.
How hot is too hot?
What — Exactly — is Global Warming
Global warming is exactly as the name implies a warming of the globe. Contrary to what a person may believe, global warming is not just a measure of ambient temperatures. Global warming involves more than just a heating of the atmosphere.
Global warming accounts for heating of the atmosphere, the oceans, and land.
A tremendous change is required to change the temperature of the entire globe. “A one- to two-degree drop was all it took to plunge the Earth into the Little Ice Age,” the NASA Earth Observatory explains.
“A five-degree drop was enough to bury a large part of North America under a towering mass of ice 20,000 years ago.”
What was the Global Temperature Before the Industrial Revolution?
No one is certain what the exact global temperature was prior to the industrial revolution.
The technology to monitor global temperatures was not available. Global temperature records start in the early 1800’s. Records prior to 1950 are thought to be accurate to within a tenth of a degree.
What we do know is that for a 70 year period the median global temperature was 56.66-degree Fahrenheit. Between 1800 and 1870, global temperatures remained fairly steady.
What is the Current Global Temperature?
NASA began tracking global temperatures following the Second World War. NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) Surface Temperature Analysis (GISTEMP) is an estimate of global surface temperature change. It is accurate to within a thousandth of a degree.
Using the data we’ve accumulated since 1880, we can graph the rate at which the globe has warmed. “The average global temperature on Earth has increased by about 0.8° [1.4° Fahrenheit] since 1880.” According to GISS data, the mean temperature between 1951 and 1980 was 57 degrees Fahrenheit.
That means, including all the data since 1880, “Two-thirds of the warming occurred since 1975.”
What are the Consequences of a Warmer Global Climate?
The New York Times reported, “Famine, economic collapse, a sun that cooks us,” will be consequences of global warming. It is easy to dismiss such dramatic statements as hyperbole. But, the Times reporter who wrote the article assures us it’s not.
Times reporter David Wallace-Wells wrote in July 2017, “It is, I promise, worse than you think.”
In an article titled The Uninhabitable Earth, he reported, “Parts of the Earth will likely become close to uninhabitable.” If we are, “unable to comprehend [global warming’s] scope,” with serious data and statistics, how about irony he wonders.
“This past winter, a string of days 60 and 70 degrees warmer than normal baked the North Pole. [Temperatures melted] the permafrost that encased Norway’s Svalbard seed vault — a global food bank nicknamed “Doomsday.” [The vault is] designed to ensure that our agriculture survives any catastrophe. [The seed bank] appears to have been flooded by climate change less than ten years after being built.”
But Again, What global temperature is too hot for Earth to sustain life as we currently live?
No one can say for certain exactly what temperature would make the Earth too hot to sustain life. What is agreed upon is that increasing temperatures will have dramatic and long-term effects?
Global Warming Will Drown Coastal Cities
The sea level will rise by 216 feet if the polar ice caps melt according to National Geographic. Florida will disappear completely. So will New York, Boston, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Houston, and the majority of San Francisco, San Diego, and Los Angeles.
Montreal will disappear. So will Nicaragua and Belize and large portions of every other Central American country. London, Amsterdam, Brussels, Stockholm, and Helsinki will disappear as well.
Hong Kong, Tokyo, Bejing, and Seoul, gone.
Sydney and Auckland too.
Global Warming Will End Food
Across the world, there are only six (6) staple crops: wheat, rice, maize, soybean, barley, and sorghum. In February of 2017, ABC News reported on a study titled Global scale climate-crop yield relationships and the impacts of recent warming. According to Dr. Andrew Borrell, University of Queensland, “All six crops responded negatively to increasing temperatures.”
The effect of temperature increases on staple crops is dramatic. “For maize, the predicted decline is as much as 22 percent by 2050,” according to Borrell. So, for every acre or hectare of land planted, production is predicted to fall by almost one quarter.
Borrell isn’t alone in his hypothesis.
Dr. Sam Myers is a medical doctor and senior research scientist. He studies environmental health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. According to Myers, “climate change will reduce the amount of food grown around the world.”
Myers is more concerned about other factors aside from the fact that temperature affects crop growth. For one, areas that produced crops historically will no longer be productive. Secondly, increased temperatures will allow blight and pests number to increase.
As cold temperatures that control insect populations diminish, the number of insects will increase.
Plagues and Pandemics Will Increase
The World Health Organization believes global warming is likely to increase the spread of infectious diseases. In an article titled Climate change and infectious diseases the WHO claims human have understood this for millennia.
“Humans have known that climatic conditions affect epidemic diseases from long before the role of infectious agents was discovered, late in the nineteenth century. Roman aristocrats retreated to hill resorts each summer to avoid malaria. South Asians learned early that, in high summer, strongly curried foods were less likely to cause diarrhea.”
The list of potential issues related to global warming is as long as the imagination permits.
But one of the scariest facts is that global warming breeds global warming.
Global Warming Perpetuates Global Warming
As Wallace-Wells of the New York Times reports, even frozen ground — permafrost — thawing can have devastating effects. “Arctic permafrost contains 1.8 trillion tons of carbon. [That is] more than twice as much as is currently suspended in the Earth’s atmosphere.”
When the carbon is released, it will evaporate as methane. Methane “is 34 times as powerful a greenhouse-gas warming blanket as carbon dioxide…”
We Have the Technology to Slow Global Warming
From alternative energy sources to technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions exponentially, from education to lifestyle changes, we have the capacity to slow or stop global warming.
Whether we will choose to do so — or not — is the question.