Global warming is serious

  1. People are dying right now
  2. Our climate FOES — Famines, Oceans rising, Extinctions and Storms — are Threat Multipliers.
  3. FAMINE
  4. OCEANS RISING — 100 Million Refugees
  5. EXTINCTIONS — 50% biodiversity loss, prehistorical climate caused Extinction Level Events
  6. SEVERE STORMS: Blizzards, devastating downpours, heatwaves, droughts and firestorms
  7. All become Threat Multipliers — Global Warming as a National Security issue
  8. Syria as a possible example
  9. Will peak oil stop global warming?

1. People are dying right now

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), climate change was a significant factor in 150,000 deaths in the year 2000. This figure is predicted to double in the next 30 years. Scientific American’s podcast “Science talk” of 7 November 2007 indicates that this trend has grown to 200 thousand people per year.

The same report estimated that a further 5.5 million years of healthy life were lost each year to debilitating illnesses caused by climate change. The World Bank estimates that one fifth of all ill health in poor countries is related to environmental factors (esp climate change and pollution). Such statistics could be multiplied, and these reports come from well-respected international organisations.

2. Our climate FOES — Famines, Ocean rise, Extinctions and Severe Storms — are Threat Multipliers.

Massive famines, sea level rise, biodiversity loss threatening local ecosystems services,  and severe storms from firestorms through to devastating floods all harm people, landscapes, the national economy and even have implications for global stability and international relations. They could become Threat Multipliers, even threatening national security! Let’s unpack this below.

3. FAMINE!

In this section I’ll be referring to the Illustrated Guide , a summary of more than 60 recent studies that explores what an increase of 4 degrees would mean for the human race. It concludes

  • Permanent Dust Bowl conditions over the U.S. Southwest, parts of the Great Plains and many other regions around the globe that are heavily populated and/or heavily farmed.  (An Illustrated Guide)

 

The Guardian reports (March 2014):

The broad brush: our global food scenario

In all likelihood, the official IPCC document that emerged today won’t have swerved much from its drafted consensus. Now a team of researchers, led by the University of Leeds, has published a study in Nature Climate Change containing results that likely align closely with what the final report says.

“On average, we are looking at yield decreases. By the 2030s most of the changes in crop yields are negative,” says Andy Challinor, University of Leeds climate researcher, author on the paper, and on the new IPCC report, too. “The second half of the century is when the negative impact in yields becomes more common.”

The researchers found this by comparing results from almost 100 independent studies—more than double the number used in the IPCC’s fourth assessment—that measured the impact of higher temperatures on three of the globe’s primary staple crops: maize, wheat, and rice. It’s currently the largest dataset we have that demonstrates how crops will respond to changing climates, and it suggests that decreases in yields will grow larger, affect both temperate regions and the tropics, and become increasingly erratic as the weather turns more unpredictable too.

Once mid-century hits, crop losses of up to 25% will become more commonplace, as well—a number that does account for basic mitigation efforts in farming regimes.

Not only this, but increased Co2 actually makes many food crops or even fodder crops for cattle more toxic by increasing their cyanide levels (see ABC Science Show podcast).

Denialist’s sometimes shout “But CO2 is plant food!” in their frenzied attempts to deny the seriousness of climate change. On a superficial level, this might be true, but as always the scientific evidence and effects are more complex than that. One could argue that pizza is super-dense human food, therefore we should stuff everyone with pizza every day! Err…. no! 😉

4. OCEANS RISING

  • Sea level rise of some 1 foot by 2050, then 4 to 6 feet (or more) by 2100, rising some 6 to 12 inches (or more) each decade thereafter (An Illustrated Guide)

This will cause 100 million refugees!

Peter Sinclair’s 7 minute piece

National Geographic’s 45 minute documentary

This is the best I’ve seen on sea level rise. Please set aside an evening to watch “Earth Under Water”.

 

 

5. EXTINCTIONS: We could lose 50% of our biodiversity!

This should not surprise us as natural  volcanic prehistoric global warming has caused dead oceans and Extinction Level Events.

6. STORMS — Blizzards, devastating downpours, heatwaves, droughts and firestorms

Blizzards!

The physicists tell us that the atmosphere can carry 5% more water for every 1 degree it warms. This dries farmlands faster and carries more water for devastating downpours elsewhere. Not only this, but prevailing wind and weather patterns will change. Today’s trapped energy amounts to about 4 Hiroshima sized bombs per second! This extra heat is a form of extra energy in the wind, messing around with previously stable wind zones. Jet streams shift and become ‘drunk’ on global warming, shifting Arctic weather down across North America in severe snowstorms. Counter-intuitively, a hotter planet can shift snowstorms to cause devastating local snowstorms. As Mother Jones reports, “Go home Arctic, you’re drunk!

7 minute video explains how global warming can lead to local freezing

Devastating downpours and floods

This paper reveals that with just a rise of 2°C in global average temperatures, Australia will see a 11.3-30% intensification in rainfall from extreme precipitation events. This will occur even as some areas may become increasingly drought prone…

The paper also went beyond the 2°C international Paris Agreement target, looking at what would happen with a 4°C rise in , which is a likely outcome based on current increases in the rate of carbon emissions. It produced a projected increase in rainfall for extreme events of 22-60%.
From Physics news Jan 2017

 

Heatwaves

For decades, higher average temperatures have been experienced across WA, and below average rainfall in the west coast and the south-west land division. Some estimate autumn and winter rainfall to drop by 50% over the next several decades.

These cause several problems including heatwaves, water insecurity and drought. Heatwaves are a significant but underestimated killer. Since 1890, they have caused more deaths in Australia than the combined effect of bushfires, cyclones, earthquakes, floods and storms. Continuing heatwaves could cause hundreds more deaths each year by 2050.
(From Online Opinion Jan 2017 )

 

Droughts

Australia’s Climate Council (2014 IPCC summary) says:

Limited water resources in southern Australia, due to higher temperatures and decreased rainfall Southwest Australia has experienced decreases in autumn and winter rainfall since the 1970s, and the southeast has experienced decreased autumn and winter rainfall since the 1990s. Increased drought frequency is expected in southern Australia, with decreases in the amount of rainfall by as much as 10% by 2030, and by up to 30% by 2070. These upper-limit scenarios would have important implications for regional agriculture, rural livelihoods, ecosystems, and urban water supply. Uncertainty in the scale of projected rainfall changes means that effective adaptation to these risks will be particularly challenging. 

Back to Online Opinion Jan 2017:-

Over last 40 years, average annual inflow into Perth dams has fallen dramatically and the supply-demand water gap is widening. WA’s Department of Water estimate that, by 2050, water demand in urban areas across the state will outstrip supply by 250 gigalitres each year. Agricultural water supplies (surface and ground water) have fallen in the south-west.  It is a similar story in south-eastern Australia, with higher average temperatures and below average rainfall. Rainfall has reduced by 11% in the April-October growing seasons since the mid-1990’s, and was particularly bad during the Millennium Drought. Drying of the Murray-Darling Basin is seen as increased “browning” in this Google Earth Engine time-lapse video from 1984-2016, particularly since 2002. If greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated, irrigated agriculture production in the Murray-Darling Basin is estimated to fall by 92% by the end of this century.  

The risk of droughts being more frequent and more severe is increasing, which will reduce agricultural yields and place ever-increasing pressure on farmers and food production. Increasing drought severity has also been found to be associated with an increased suicide risk in 30-49 year old rural males compared with those living in urban areas.

Firestorms

Increased loss of life, damage to property, and economic loss due to bushfires in southern Australia. 

The intense 2009 Victorian bushfires caused 173 deaths and destroyed over 2,000 buildings. Similar bushfire events may become more frequent. Australian fire danger weather has increased in some areas around Australia since the 1970s. Hotter and drier conditions in southern Australia mean that fire danger weather is projected to increase in this region. Under certain scenarios, Australia is likely to see an increase in days of very high and extreme fire danger. For example, Canberra currently experiences an average of 17 days per year of very high and extreme fire danger index.

This is expected to increase to 18-23 days by 2020, and to 20-33 days by 2050. The severity of some key regional risks is dependent on a large range of climate variables, even for a particular global average temperature increase. However, if the most extreme scenarios occur, these risks would be severe. 
Australia’s Climate Council (2014 IPCC summary) says

7. All become Threat Multipliers — Global Warming as a National Security issue

Part 1

Part 2

 

8. Syria as a possible example

Scientific American reports:-

Drying and drought in Syria from 2006 to 2011—the worst on record there—destroyed agriculture, causing many farm families to migrate to cities. The influx added to social stresses already created by refugees pouring in from the war in Iraq, explains Richard Seager, a climate scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory who co-authored the study. The drought also pushed up food prices, aggravating poverty. “We’re not saying the drought caused the war,” Seager said. “We’re saying that added to all the other stressors, it helped kick things over the threshold into open conflict. And a drought of that severity was made much more likely by the ongoing human-driven drying of that region.”

Wired, The Guardian, National Geographic and Mashable all contain similar stories. Is the Syrian Civil Warm our first Global Warming flashpoint?

Azaz_Syria_during_the_Syrian_Civil_War_Missing_front_of_House(Image from wiki-commons)

 

9. Will peak oil stop global warming?

Emphatically no! We can’t even afford to burn the remaining oil, let alone the gas, and coal could cook the planet 5 times over.

Kharecha, P.A., and J.E. Hansen, 2008: Implications of “peak oil” for atmospheric CO2 and climate. Global Biogeochem. Cycles, 22, GB3012, doi:10.1029/2007GB003142.

http://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/abstracts/2008/Kharecha_Hansen.html

Unconstrained CO2 emission from fossil fuel burning has been the dominant cause of observed anthropogenic global warming. The amounts of “proven” and potential fossil fuel reserves are uncertain and debated. Regardless of the true values, society has flexibility in the degree to which it chooses to exploit these reserves, especially unconventional fossil fuels and those located in extreme or pristine environments. If conventional oil production peaks within the next few decades, it may have a large effect on future atmospheric CO2 and climate change, depending upon subsequent energy choices. Assuming that proven oil and gas reserves do not greatly exceed estimates of the Energy Information Administration, and recent trends are toward lower estimates, we show that it is feasible to keep atmospheric CO2 from exceeding about 450 ppm by 2100, provided that emissions from coal, unconventional fossil fuels, and land use are constrained. Coal-fired power plants without sequestration must be phased out before mid- century to achieve this CO2 limit. It is also important to “stretch” conventional oil reserves via energy conservation and efficiency, thus averting strong pressures to extract liquid fuels from coal or unconventional fossil fuels while clean technologies are being developed for the era “beyond fossil fuels”. We argue that a rising price on carbon emissions is needed to discourage conversion of the vast fossil resources into usable reserves, and to keep CO2 beneath the 450 ppm ceiling.

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