8 December 2020   Leave a comment

NASA has announced that 2019 was the second warmest year on record, second only to 2016. But it was only second by a hair. According to CNN: “The only year in recorded history the planet has experienced that was hotter was 2016, and only by a hair — just 0.04 degrees Celsius.” The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) provides the background to this warming:

“Concentrations of the major greenhouse gases, CO2, CH4, and N2O, continued to increase in 2019
and 2020.

“Despite developing La Niña conditions, global mean temperature in 2020 is on course to be one of
the three warmest on record. The past six years, including 2020, are likely to be the six warmest
years on record.

“Sea level has increased throughout the altimeter record, but recently sea level has risen at a higher
rate due partly to increased melting of ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica. Global mean sea level
in 2020 was similar to that in 2019 and both are consistent with the long-term trend. A small drop in
global sea level in the latter part of 2020 is likely associated with developing La Niña conditions,
similar to the temporary drops associated with previous La Niña events.

“Over 80% of the ocean area experienced at least one marine heatwave in 2020 to date. More of the
ocean experienced marine heat waves classified as ‘strong’ (43%) than ‘moderate’ (28%).”

The warming process was most acute in Siberia (more that 5 degrees C than normal), southwestern US, northern and western parts of South America, and parts of China. The emission of greenhouse gases contributing to the warming was notable:

“In 2019, greenhouse gas concentrations reached new highs (Figure 3), with globally averaged mole
fractions of carbon dioxide (CO2) at 410.5±0.2 parts per million (ppm), methane (CH4) at 1877±2
parts per billion (ppb) and nitrous oxide (N2O) at 332.0±0.1 ppb. These values constitute,
respectively, 148%, 260% and 123% of pre-industrial (before 1750) levels. The increase in CO2 from
2018 to 2019 (2.6 ppm) was larger than both the increase from 2017 to 2018 (2.3 ppm) and the
average over the last decade (2.37 ppm per year). For CH4, the increase from 2018 to 2019 was
slightly lower than from 2017 to 2018 but still higher than the average over the last decade. For N2O,
the increase from 2018 to 2019 was also lower than that observed from 2017 to 2018 and practically
equal to the average growth rate over the past 10 years.”

The data led a large number of climate scientists to issue a stark warning which was published in The Guardian:

“As scientists and scholars from around the world, we call on policymakers to engage with the risk of disruption and even collapse of societies. After five years failing to reduce emissions in line with the Paris climate accord, we must now face the consequences. While bold and fair efforts to cut emissions and naturally drawdown carbon are essential, researchers in many areas consider societal collapse a credible scenario this century. Different views exist on the location, extent, timing, permanence and cause of disruptions, but the way modern societies exploit people and nature is a common concern.

“Only if policymakers begin to discuss this threat of societal collapse might we begin to reduce its likelihood, speed, severity, harm to the most vulnerable – and to nature….

“We have experienced how emotionally challenging it is to recognise the damage being done, along with the growing threat to our own way of life. We also know the great sense of fellowship that can arise. It is time to have these difficult conversations, so we can reduce our complicity in the harm, and make the best of a turbulent future.”

Such warnings run the risk of inducing a sense of fatalism about climate change. But the world has not moved very far in addressing this crisis over the last five years, despite the promise of the Paris Accords. US President-elect Biden has spoken often about the need to address climate change, and the appointment of former Senator John Kerry as the special presidential envoy for climate suggests that there may be support for what has been termed the “Great Reset”. The Great Reset initiative tries to integrate the economic, political, and health-related aspects of climate change and it is a profoundly ambitious perspective on the crisis. The obstacles to effective change, largely stemming from the financially powerful oil and gas industries, still remain, however. Nothing less than extreme public pressure will overcome the powerful resistance to change.

Posted December 8, 2020 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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