Nowadays most people will (hopefully) agree that climate change is real and our actions have taken a toll on our planet. We have pushed the earth into a new epoch, the Anthropocene: adj. relating to or denoting the current geological age, viewed as the period during which human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment. (mirriam-webster dictionary).
Discussing the weather over the past weeks (as one does when in Britain!), we found ourselves wondering if the heat was here to stay - not just for a few weeks, but for the rest of our lives?
the hot summer of 2018
The summer of 2018 has gathered significant media attention. Not only has the summer 2018 been (and still is) the fourth warmest year on record but have seen record high temperatures all over the world,
An article from Vox media lists some of the extreme weather events that have occurred so far this Summer, including a village in Oman where the temperature remained above 108ºF (42ºC) for 51 hours. In Japan temperatures reached an unprecedented high of 106ºF (41ºC) resulting in 90 deaths and more than 57,000 people injured.
We don't have to look very far away from home to witness these changes: in the UK, where the climate is Temperate Maritime, this summer has been characterized by high temperatures and very dry weather, resulting in an unusually high number of wildfires.
As climate scientist Michael Menn said about climate change effects:
"We are seeing them [climate change effects] play out in real time in the form of unprecedented heat waves, floods, droughts and wildfires. And we've seen them all this summer,"
Here's what CHANGES HAVE ALREADY TAKEN PLACE in the Anthropocene period:
The Planet's surface has warmed
Causing more Freak Weather incidents
Some of the longer- term effects of global climate change, which we are already starting to witness, include; temperature rises and hence more frequent heatwaves, droughts and wildfires. Changes in precipitation can hinder our ability to grow food and destroy crops. These changes in our weather would also have serious socioeconomic implications and already we we are becoming accustomed to terms such as climate refugee or environmental migration. .
It is important to understand that climate change affects all of us and our daily lives. Its effects will change how we live, specially the lives of those in vulnerable areas - such as the inhabitants of the Marshall Islands, already suffering the consequences of sea level rise and are at risk of loosing their homes. In the western Pacific, sea level is rising by 12mm a year. Interestingly, environmental migrants are not covered by the 1951 Geneva convention relating to the state of refugees, which is becoming a pressing issue as countries recognize the impact of climate change on migration. On a positive note, some countries are taking action and New Zealand have become the first to recognise climate change as ground for asylum, and are in the process of creating special visas for Pacific islanders that have to reallocate.
This is a scary scenario.... To think that our everyday, our home, is at risk. Its a scenario which we need to contain and act so that it doesn't turn into a norm.
And it will get worse if we continue on track to reach +2º degrees of global warming
Extreme weather events result in economic, social and environmental problems. Despite all of our efforts so far, a +2º increase in temperature in comparison to pre-industrial levels is still more likely than a +1.5º increase. The weather we have experienced so far is only a sample of what we can expect in the future.
This smart graph from Carbon Brief illustrates the point:
It's important to note that the planet won't warm evenly, and that consequences in some areas of the world will be far worse than in others. Some areas will become dryer and more prone to extreme heat and drought, while others will experience heavier and more frequent rainfall.
To answer our own question:
The heat is here to stay
Scientists and trend analysts are in agreement on this point. What's more, new computer-generated data shows that the next 3 years might be some of the hottest we've experienced too:
Despite the growing awareness and certainty that climate change is a reality ( the IPCC latest 2013 report found that there is a 95% chance that human emitted greenhouse gases are responsible for more than half of the rise in temperature since 1951) and occurring, there is still a notion among many that it's a problem too big for us to handle, making it overwhelming and leaving some people uncertain as to how their actions can make a change.
This summer's extreme weather has a potential to act as a wake up call, and we hope it does.
That's why next week we'll tackle the tricky question of what we can do to at a personal level to lessen our impact on the planet.
Is the Summer of 2018 the end of business as usual for you? Will you commit to making changes? Let us know in the comments!