The World is getting warmer. This graph depicts the global temperature changes from 1880 to 2018. The data on which it is based is from the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the graph is courtesy of Levke Caesar.
This week in the UK we’ve been enjoying unseasonably warm weather. Lots of us have been outdoors actively making the best of it. However there is also the worrying knowledge that this lovely weather is not how February in UK should be. Weather records are being broken all over the world. Some of these events are pleasantly enjoyed by millions, such as this warm spell in the UK. The other side of the coin is that many people are experiencing life threatening weather events: floods, droughts, hurricanes.
What is of course most worrying is that the warmer global temperatures are increasingly triggering a number of feedback loops. Ice is melting from the Arctic to the Antarctic causing sea levels to rise. As the oceans warm the water expands, further adding to sea level rise. Less ice means more of the sun’s energy is absorbed by the ocean, further contributing to warming, and to sea level rise. As the sea warms methane is released from the ocean floor. Permafrost is melting releasing more methane and carbon dioxide, further intensifying climate breakdown. As atmospheric carbon dioxide levels increase the oceans absorb more carbon dioxide, turning some of this into carbonic acid and thus making the oceans more acidic, with potentially catastrophic results for humanity.
The science is clear. We need to get to a zero carbon economy as quickly as possible. As I’ve repeatedly said on this blog, we have technological and political choices. Our politicians consistently hold on to outdated concepts, like economic growth and national self interest. The young people involved with school strike for climate, and so many of us in ecological activist groups like Extinction Rebellion, understand we need system change, not climate change. If our species is to have a future we all must start acting in the interests of our own species, as a unified collective entity. We all need a stable climate and a fully functioning biosphere. That will entail reallocating resources on an epic scale. It will involve the closing down of many industries, and the expansion of others. Our decisions will need to be guided by the ecological imperative, and that will need to trump all concepts of profit and power. A big ask, but absolutely necessary.