What a month! And August is not even over. On top of the dozens of raging forest fires, flooded cities and other daily disasters, here’s some of the bigger picture that scientists and governments have been reporting this month:
95% Certainty We’re Causing It
For those who still can’t believe this thing is really happening, this year’s report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says it is at least 95 percent likely that human activities – chiefly the burning of fossil fuels – are the main cause of warming since the 1950s.
The report adds that sea levels can be expected to rise by more than three feet by the end of the century.
The evidence of rising sea levels is now “unequivocal”.
Almost 200 governments have said they’ll try to limit global warming to below 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees C) above pre-industrial times. That’s seen as a threshold for dangerous changes including droughts, extinctions, floods and rising seas that could swamp coastal regions and entire island nations.
But global temperatures are going to increase by more than that level, and the report says the evidence of rising sea levels is now “unequivocal”.
Basically, we’ve gone over the tipping point.
Heat Waves Will Double by 2020, then Quadruple
Right now, summer heat extremes, like the heat waves in the U.S., Russia and Australia in recent years, have only affected 5 percent of the world’s land area. But according to a new study in the journal Environmental Research Letters:
This is projected to double by 2020 and quadruple by 2040. The tropics would be most affected by increased heat waves, followed by areas including the Mediterranean, Middle East, parts of western Europe, central Asia and the United States.
We Will Become More Violent
Shifts in climate change are strongly linked to human violence around the world, according to a new study by the University of California, Berkeley and Princeton University. UC Berkeley’s Marshall Burke explains:
“We found that a one standard deviation shift towards hotter conditions causes the likelihood of personal violence to rise four percent and intergroup conflict to rise 14 percent,”
If those calculations are correct, a global temperature rise of just 3.6 degrees F (2 degrees C), as is expected to happen, could increase local conflicts and civil wars by over 50 percent.
Infectious Diseases Will Multiply
A special edition of Science magazine, focusing on climate change, both ancient and modern, notes that as temperatures, so will the incidence of tropical diseases, including malaria and dengue fever. (Debue fever has already taken hold in the Florida Keys).
(Lots more scientific articles in this edition, mostly available without subscription.)
Last year, Arctic sea ice reached a record low, while sea levels and greenhouse gases from fossil fuel burning hit all-time highs.
That’s the news from the American Meteorological Society’s State of the Climate report for 2012.
More from the State of the Climate Report:
* 2012 was among the 10 warmest years on record.
* The United States and Argentina had their hottest years ever.
* Arctic sea ice reached a record low.
* Greenhouse gases from fossil fuel burning hit all-time highs.
* Sea levels reached a record high.
As climatologist James Renwick, a co-author of the report, explained it:
“Ice has been melting more rapidly, more heat is going into the ocean and the sea level is rising faster. All of those things indicate that the climate system as a whole is continuing to warm up — and warm up faster as we go along.”