Sunday, July 03, 2016

Shattered Records Show Climate Change Is an Emergency Today, Scientists Warn

Unprecedented temperature levels mean more heatwaves, flooding, wildfires and hurricanes as experts say global warming is here and affecting us now.

Flooding in Straiton, Scotland, in December. Scientists say it will increase in future. (Photograph Credit: Danny Lawson/PA) Click to Enlarge.
May was the 13th month in a row to break temperature records according to figures published this week that are the latest in 2016’s string of incredible climate records which scientists have described as a bombshell and an emergency.

The series of smashed global records, particularly the extraordinary heat in February and March, has provoked a stunned reaction from climate scientists, who are warning that climate change has reached unprecedented levels and is no longer only a threat for the future.

Alongside the soaring temperatures, other records have tumbled around the world, from vanishing Arctic sea ice to a searing drought in India and the vast bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef.  The UK has experienced record flooding that has devastated communities across the country and scientists predict that the flash floods seen by parts of the country in recent days will increase in future.

It was just last December when the world’s nations sealed a deal in Paris to defeat global warming, but Prof Stefan Rahmstorf, at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, says:  “These [records] are very worrying signs and I think it shows we are on a crash course with the Paris targets unless we change course very, very fast.  I hope people realize that global warming is not something down the road, but it is here now and it affecting us now.”

“What is happening right now is we are catapulting ourselves out of the Holocene, which is the geological epoch that human civilization has been able to develop in, because of the relatively stable climate,” says Rahmstorf.  “It allowed us to invent agriculture, rather than living as nomads.  It allowed a big population growth, it allowed the foundation of cities, all of which required a stable climate.”

But the spikes in global surface temperatures in recent months have been anything but stable. They did not just break the records, they obliterated them.  “The numbers are completely unprecedented,” says Adam Scaife, at the Met Office in the UK.  “They really stick out like a sore thumb.”
“Climate change means more intense rainfall and therefore an increased risk of flooding,” says Bob Ward, policy director at the London School of Economics’ Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.
“The impacts we’re beginning to see are just the start and we know we are going to be facing a worsening situation for at least the next couple of decades even if we do cut emissions,” Ward says.

“What’s worrying [about the record-breaking 2016] is that we are in unprecedented territory and we don’t really know what the consequences will be,” he says.  “There are likely to be plenty of surprises, some of which will be nasty.”

Read more at Shattered Records Show Climate Change Is an Emergency Today, Scientists Warn

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