Global warming doesn’t feel very warm

Scientists have announced that the world for the year 2015 was an average of 1 degree celsius (that’s about 2 degree fahrenheit) warmer than has ever occurred in recorded history.

But 1 degree?  That doesn’t sound like the potential catastrophe of droughts, floods, extinctions, starvation and global disease scientists say could occur if the planet warms more than just one more degree.

Is this serious or is it mere hysteria?

Nothing would please me more than to write that scientists are exaggerating the problem.

But let us put 1 degree celsius into context.  A decrease of just five degrees celsius would plunge the world into an ice age.  So a change of a mere five degrees can dramatically change our planet.  Unfortunately, it can do so in the opposite direction as well.

Global warming in the form of 2-3 degree celsius can be devastating.  The melting of glaciers could raise the oceans’ water level by as much as 6-8 feet.  Think of how many of the world’s greatest cities will be underwater, how many islands will disappear, how much land will be lost to the sea.  As sea water becomes increasingly acidic, much of sea life will be lost.

Extreme weather patterns, some of which we have already seen this year, will proliferate.  Floods will sweep entire towns, fields and farm land away.  Tornadoes, hurricanes, cyclones, and typhoons will flatten anything and anyone in its torrential path.

Electricity, communication media, and travel could be devastated, leaving survivors isolated.  Water supplies will be corrupted.

Fifteen years ago when I first read about global warming, I thought it sounded quite comfortable.  Some of us would perhaps have to sacrifice our winter snow and skiing vacations.  But our heating bills would be greatly reduced, and the growing season for our crops would be lengthened.

But that’s not what’s happening.  Environmental change, even environmental destruction, would be a much better term for what we call global warming.  Yes, the temperatures are increasing, but the effects on our mother earth are not benign.

Can we stop it?  Yes, I believe we can.  With research, with ingenuity, if governments, if businesses, if individuals are determined to save our planet we can do it.

But we can’t walk around and deny the problem.  Or count on somebody else to fix things.

We all have to do our part, no matter how small that might feel.

 

 

 

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About Terry Sissons

Terry Sissons is the author of The Big Bang to Now: All of Time in Six Chunks, and this blog is a dialogue about the universe and what’s happened in the last 13 billions years.
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