NASA’s chief climate expert announced Tuesday that the Earth is warming up faster than it ever has in the past 1,000 years. If this trend continues, it’s “very unlikely” that the 1.5 degrees Celsius limit agreed on in Paris last December will be respected.
So by now we’ve had not one, not two, but three record-breakingly hot years in a row. If for some reason someone still can’t make out the pattern here, a recent NASA announcement comes to dot the i as clearly as possible.
“In the last 30 years, we’ve really moved into exceptional territory,” NASA director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies Gavin Schmidt said for the Guardian. “It’s unprecedented in 1,000 years. There’s no period that has the trend seen in the 20th century in terms of the inclination [of temperatures].”
Last December, leading scientists met with some of the most powerful world leaders and agreed that steps must be taken, and taken fast, to keep global warming under a relatively safe 1.5 C. Being a non-binding agreement, however, only 23 of the 197 signatory states have ratified the proposal at the time I’m writing this. Progress is made painstakingly slow, and at this rate, it won’t be enough to keep the planet stable. Recent research has found that just five more years of carbon dioxide emissions at current levels will virtually destroy any chance we have of keeping temperature increase under the 1.5C threshold and avoid runaway climate change. Moreover, the agreement that was reached in Paris covers carbon emission reduction that will keep global warming at a 3C threshold, despite the 1.5C intended goal.
“Maintaining temperatures below the 1.5 C guardrail requires significant and very rapid cuts in carbon dioxide emissions or coordinated geo-engineering,” he continued, referring to controversial so-called geo hacks. “That is very unlikely. We are not even yet making emissions cuts commensurate with keeping warming below 2 C.”
“It’s the long-term trend we have to worry about though and there’s no evidence it’s going away and lots of reasons to think it’s here to stay,” Schmidt added. “There’s no pause or hiatus in temperature increase. People who think this is over are viewing the world through rose-tinted spectacles. This is a chronic problem for society for the next 100 years.”
Research performed by NASA and NOAA found that temperatures are rising ten times faster than the historical average — meaning the planet will warm up “at least” 20 times faster than historical average in the coming 100 years, NASA said. Temperature reconstructions show that global temperatures typically rose by between 4-7 C over 5,000 years as the world moved out of ice ages. The rise measured over the past century is around 10 times faster than this previous rate of warming.
In essence, ” the pace of temperature increase over recent decades outstrips anything that has occurred since the year 500,” the Guardian notes.
So the decision taken by the International Geological Congress in Cape Town, South Africa earlier this week seems to be more and more appropriate — what better way to usher in out very own geological epoch, the Anthropocene, than with a climate of our very own making?
Well, I’d like one that wouldn’t starve, flood, and dry us to death. But that’s just me.