Climate Change

The Why: to Change and Adapt

Modern life has gifted us with the riches of connectivity across the globe. A western lifestyle usually suggests reliable access to electricity and material goods. It aids our options to import a wide variety of foods, independent of our own seasonal harvest. These advancements feel normal, yet our privilege and prospect breed a complacency to their by-products.

The unpleasant truth is we are undergoing undeniable climate change. The result is irreversible damage by global warming done to our planet. Political debates continue if these are natural climate cycles independent of human activity. Yet the scientific evidence bares high degrees of confidence to anthropogenic effects of burning fossil fuels and removing carbon sinks such as deforestation.

United Nations (UN) stated "Climate Change is the defining issue of our times and we are at a defining moment". NASA’s Images of Change visualize the unprecedented rate of change we are dealing with. The extent is far reaching into the geopolitical landscape as the World Economic Forum (WEF) ranks climate action failure, extreme weather, and biodiversity loss as the top 2020 Global Risks in terms of impact and likelihood.

We have a burden of responsibility to the planetary climate that nurtures us. Our human evolution is very sensitive to the goldilocks zone where the temperature is just right to develop and thrive. Driven by climate disruptions- grows the urge for action and momentum to reduce human caused emissions of CO2 and attain ‘net zero’ before 2050. The intent is not guilt or blame but awareness and collaboration to be aggressive with politics to scale clean technologies and recovery methods.

UN’s Sustainable Development Goals for Affordable and Clean Energy recommend: investing in renewable resources, following energy efficient practices, adopting clean energy technology, and reducing energy intensive modes of transportation.

Global Climate Change indicators (data from climate.nasa.gov, and ipcc.ch/sr15/)

The global mean surface temperature has increased by ~1°C above pre-industrial (1880) levels with recent years being the hottest on record. At the current rate it is estimated to reach 1.5°C in the next 10-30 years from previous and current emissions. The adverse effects beyond 1.5-2°C are frightening.

Current impacts and compounding factors:

  • Carbon Dioxide (CO2) levels in the air at 414 ppm

  • Sea Level Rise > 20 cm

    • Melting ice sheets (Greenland & Antarctic) and mountain glaciers

    • Expanding ocean volumes as they absorb the thermal energy

    • Human transformation and decline of groundwater reserves (storage by aquifiers)

  • Permafrost thawing and erosion

    • Degrading ecosystems of coasts and river shorelines

    • Threatens to release trapped carbon and nitrogen

  • Ocean Acidification increases

    • Acidity change by 0.1 pH (30%) threatens marine resources which provide sources of protein and nutrients, especially in developing countries

Unstable Weather Patterns:

See Carbon Brief’s mapping of extreme weather affected by climate change around the world, and NASA’s Earth Observatory- Global Maps. These include Heat Waves, Forest Fires, Droughts, Floods, and Hurricanes which further propogate Infectious Diseases, Mental Illness, Crop Failure and Food Insecurity. During an El Niño, the natural interactions of slowing trade winds causing even hotter conditions to occur.

Note: 10% of the World’s population lives in coastal areas less than 10m above sea level, and 40% live within 100km of the coast. Along with necessary power plants, fisheries and farmland.

Mitigation:

This will require restoration of natural systems and degraded forest land, while protecting ecosystems and biodiversity. We must promote high-level mechanisms of federal incentives, carbon tax, clean technology enabling policies, and regulatory reform. And progressing symbiotic low-level technology advancements for energy intensity, affordability, efficiency and environmental care. Lastly, we need more authentic and diverse perspectives spanning the planet, to reveal narratives of real-world events over science skeptics and disconnected media.

Our World in Data- Energy, and Access to Energy by Oxford University

"2020 Is Our Last, Best Chance to Save the Planet"- Time Magazine

Protecting Canada- https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change.html

Environmental Impacts:

  1. Global Warming: Accelerating due to effects of emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), chlorofluorocarbon (CFCs), black carbon particles, and nitrogen oxides (NOx)

  2. Resource Depletion: Raw materials such as iron ore, gas, oil, and coal

  3. Water Pollution: Heavy metals, fertilizers, solvents, oils, synthetic substances, acids, and suspended solids

  4. Air Pollution: CO2, NOx, sulfur dioxide (SO2), ozone (O3), and volatile organic compounds (VOCs)

  5. Land Degradation: Reduced soil fertility, soil erosion, salinity of land and water, and deforestation

  6. Biodiversity: Disrupting the ecosystems of plants and animals

  7. Ozone Depletion: Degraded by the reaction with nitric acid (from burning fossil fuels), and chlorine compounds (such as CFCs)