The Earth Enters 'Uncharted Territory' With Unprecedented Heat and Carbon Dioxide Levels
The World Meteorological Organization—a United Nations agency that studies climate changes and other geophysical phenomena—released a climate assessment Monday confirming reports that 2016 was the hottest year on record.
WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas says the organization can now prove the clear “existence of links between man-made climate change and many cases of high impact extreme events,” including heat waves, according to the Express, a British news site.
A natural climate cycle known as El Niño, a periodic warming of the Pacific Ocean, added to the heat in 2016. The waning of El Niño, however, does nothing to stop long-term climate change.
The Guardian reports:
“Even without a strong El Niño in 2017, we are seeing other remarkable changes across the planet that are challenging the limits of our understanding of the climate system. We are now in truly uncharted territory,” said David Carlson, director of the WMO’s world climate research programme.
“Earth is a planet in upheaval due to human-caused changes in the atmosphere,” said Jeffrey Kargel, a glaciologist at the University of Arizona in the US. “In general, drastically changing conditions do not help civilisation, which thrives on stability.”
The WMO report was “startling”, said Prof David Reay, an emissions expert at the University of Edinburgh: “The need for concerted action on climate change has never been so stark nor the stakes so high.”
The WMO report concluded that the average temperature was 1.1 degrees above pre-industrial levels and that the trend upward will continue in 2017.
In addition to recording-setting temperatures, there haven’t been such high levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere for 4 million years, according to The Guardian.
Research into the importance of carbon dioxide in relation to climate change dates back to British physicist John Tyndall in 1861.
A 2008 report in Scientific American explains Tyndall’s findings:
According to the theory, carbon dioxide controls temperature because the carbon dioxide molecules in the air absorb infrared radiation. The carbon dioxide and other gases in the atmosphere are virtually transparent to the visible radiation that delivers the sun’s energy to the earth. But the earth in turn reradiates much of the energy in the invisible infrared region of the spectrum. This radiation is most intense at wavelengths very close to the principal absorption band (13 to 17 microns) of the carbon dioxide spectrum. When the carbon dioxide concentration is sufficiently high, even its weaker absorption bands become effective, and a greater amount of infrared radiation is absorbed. … Because the carbon dioxide blanket prevents its escape into space, the trapped radiation warms up the atmosphere.
A familiar instance of this “greenhouse” effect is the heating-up of a closed automobile when it stands for a while in the summer sun. Like the atmosphere, the car’s windows are transparent to the sun’s visible radiation, which warms the upholstery and metal inside the car; these materials in turn re-emit some of their heat as infrared radiation. Glass, like carbon dioxide, absorbs some of this radiation and thus traps the heat, and the temperature inside the car rises.
The Trump administration does not seem to be troubled by these facts of nature. Scott Pruitt, new administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), told CNBC early in March that he does not believe that carbon dioxide is “a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.” His statement contradicts the findings of the EPA, NASA, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and thousands of international scientists and reports from around the world.
On Thursday, the administration proposed cutting the EPA’s budget by 31 percent, slashing more than 20 percent of the agency’s current workforce. President Trump’s budget plan would also discontinue Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which regulates carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.
—Posted by Donald Kaufman