Today, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released it’s initial report for policymakers (full report will be available on September 30) . And guess what it says – climate change is happening, and it is happening right now.
According to 95% of scientists, these changes are being caused by man and human activities.
That isn’t a surprise to those who believe in climate change and global warming, but do climate change deniers really care that much? After reading an article on Nat Geo’s Water Currents blog about how glaciers are retreating in Glacier National Park, I read the nasty comments at the bottom. Someone said this:
The author may not realize this, but glaciers have been melting in North America quite consistently for the last 10,000 years or so. In fact, New England was once covered in ice, a mile thick, all six states. My SUV didn’t cause that to happen.
That’s the funny thing about climate change, isn’t it? The Earth is giving us signs of change (warming oceans, rising oceans, sea ice loss, glacial loss) that we can see with our own eyes, like the clear decrease of glaciers in Glacier National Park, yet people still seem to deny it.
The IPCC Report cites several topics to explain how the climate is changing and how the Earth reacts. Climate Central provided this great interactive map, so click through to see:
If you don’t have time to look at the map, I will summarize for you.
- “Global temperature has risen 1.6 degrees over the past century.”
- “Water vapor has increased by roughly 4% since the 1970s. As we continue to warm, this will increase the contrast between dry and wet regions, while most regions will be vulnerable to increases in heavy precipitation events, even places where rainfall is decreasing.”
- “Glaciers have been shrinking and losing mass worldwide with the rate of melt faster in the past 20 years than it was prior to 1993.”
- “Over the past several decades, spring has been arriving an average of three days earlier in the U.S. (with state variability) while fall has been arriving later. This shift has broad impacts across entire ecosystems ( notably affecting migration patterns).”
- “Observations indicate that permafrost temperatures have increased in most regions since the early 1980s and the overall amount of permafrost is shrinking. As the Arctic warms, methane and carbon dioxide trapped in permafrost is being released into the atmosphere, increasing the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.”
- “Average spring Northern Hemisphere snow cover extent decreased 1.6% per decade from 1967-2012.”
- “Global average sea level has risen 7.5 inches over the past century, with the rate of rise accelerating over the last two decades. Warmer water expands, while melting glaciers and ice sheets are adding additional water to the oceans.”
- “The oceans are absorbing a large amount of the additional CO2. Carbon dioxide interacts with ocean water to form carbonic acid, lowering the ocean’s pH. The pH of seawater has decreased by 0.1 since the beginning of the industrial era making the ocean 26% more acidic (decreasing ability of creatures like coral, krill, oysters, clams and crabs to create skeletons and shells, causing them to die).”
- “The extent of Arctic sea ice has been decreasing 3.5 to 4.1% per decade (1979-2012). Sea ice is important because it reflects incoming radiation from the Sun and helps cool the planet.”
- “The ocean’s ability to store and release heat over long periods of time gives it an important role in stabilizing the climate. Upper ocean heat content (0 to 2300 feet) has increased significantly over the past two decades.”
- “The increase in greenhouse gases is not only warming the atmosphere – it’s warming the oceans. From 1901 through 2012, sea surface temperatures rose at an average rate of 0.13 degrees per decade.”
In a nutshell, the changes in our environment are reflected in the hydrosphere (water on Earth) and the cryosphere (all frozen water on Earth). And to make it more simple, melting glaciers mixed with rising temperatures causes sea level rise and warmer oceans. This causes more intense storms, problems for sea creatures (and whole ecosystems), and rising sea levels. All of these factors are amplified by human use of fossil fuels, which contributes to the warming of the planet through gases emitted into the atmosphere.
The main aspect to remember about climate change and data is that there is an OVERALL warming trend. Yes, there are times when the Earth cools, but on a larger scale (like over decades and centuries), the Earth is warming. Take sea ice for example. Last summer, in 2012, the sea ice cover hit minimum levels. This year, however, sea ice levels went up. Does this mean that climate change isn’t real? Not necessarily – the ice levels may have gone up, but they were still the 6th lowest on record. The 2013 levels continue on the OVERALL warming trend.
So, it is important to remember that the Earth changes on a large scale (millions of years), so just because things change in human years doesn’t mean that the Earth isn’t changing in Earth years.