Global Warming

The phenomenon of global warming has moved from the theatre of debate to fact in a few short years. Now the science of global warming is hardly in dispute from any quarter. Ice cores from the Antarctic point to carbon dioxide and methane levels at their highest for 650,000 years, with CO² rising at its fastest rate in 20,0000 years.
What is slightly more difficult to comprehend is that the resultant seemingly small changes in temperature can have such a devastating effect on the earth. What do most of us care if the temperature rises by a couple of degrees in the next few decades?
Rather than think of the inconvenience of a hot ride to work on the tube or train think of global warming like you would when the you get a temperature, the earth is just as sensitive to very small changes.
To date scientists believe the earth has heated by about 0.6ºc since global warming was identified. What has this apparently tiny rise resulted in? The list is long but we point to a few.
  • Arctic ice levels the smallest ever recorded 
  • Numerous glaciers are shrinking or disappearing across the globe 
  • Parts of Amazon rain forest turning to savannah as rainforest trees are unable to survive the higher average temperatures 
  • Coral reefs in the Indian and South Pacific Ocean are already wilting and dying. 
  • Extreme and more frequent devastating weather events.
  • So that’s with a tiny shift in temperature. Now let’s look forward as the fever really sets in. The average prediction is of a 2 ºc rise in the coming century, (the estimated range is 1.4 ºc to 5.8 ºc but the predicted numbers keep rising).
    What would a 2º rise mean to the earth apart from a nicer day at Britain’s beaches?
  • 2-3 billion people run the risk of water shortage as a direct result of glacial melt in the Andes and Himalayas 
  • Global droughts will be longer and more frequent 
  • Extreme winter rainfall will increase in Northern Europe. 
  • Crop losses in the tropics will increase local famines 
  • A predicted sea level rise of at least 40cm will pollute drinking water in major coastal cities resulting in eventual city abandonment 
  • A high risk that 15-37% of the worlds species are committed to extinction by 2050 
  • The likely hood of a summer melt in the arctic that would jeopardize a whole ecosystem 
  • The high probability of endangerment of the whole Amazon basin rainforest.
    The list is endless and very depressing.
    When making their mean prediction many scientists did not in many cases factor into the 1.4 ºc to 5.8 ºc range the phenomena of positive feedback. Simply put as earth as it heats up will start to release large amounts that it had previously stored, so exacerbating the problem.
    Sources of this problem
  • Melting peat bogs in Siberia that contain 70 billions of tones of trapped methane gas, a more potent global warmer than CO². These permanently frozen bogs are already beginning to melt.
  • A drying and dying Amazon rainforest will release millions of tonnes of CO² back into the atmosphere.
  • Less Ice at the poles reflect less light and warmth and seas absorb heat more efficiently and so warm faster.
  • The slowing of the Gulf Stream already 30% less powerful which will expose tropical regions of the globe to even greater heat as cooling waters currents from the arctic slow down.
    The earth, could, by 2050 be releasing 7 billion tonnes of CO² back into the atmosphere about the amount that we are currently emitting today.

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