For years now climate scientists have been warning us the climate crisis is around the corner. Well, we have now gone around the corner. The changes in temperature seem tiny. They are not. The numbers are tiny. The reality is big.
As one of the most respected scientists, Katherine Hayhoe from Texas Tech University of all places, and a born again Christian of all people, put it well, “We have built a civilization based on a world that doesn’t exist anymore.” The old world with the old climate that we liked, except for some outlier places like Manitoba and Siberia, is gone. It is not coming back.
As Oliver Milman, Andrew Witherspoon, Rita Liu, and Alvin Chang, reported recently in the Guardian,
“The world has already heated up by around 1.2C, on average, since the preindustrial era, pushing humanity beyond almost all historical boundaries. Cranking up the temperature of the entire globe this much within little more than a century is, in fact, extraordinary, with the oceans alone absorbing the heat equivalent of five Hiroshima atomic bombs dropping into the water every second.”
If you don’t think the world has changed already, read what the Guardian reporters said about that:
Until now, human civilization has operated within a narrow, stable band of temperature. Through the burning of fossil fuels, we have now unmoored ourselves from our past, as if we have transplanted ourselves onto another planet. The last time it was hotter than now was at least 125,000 years ago, while the atmosphere has more heat-trapping carbon dioxide in it than any time in the past two million years, perhaps more.
This change happened since the start of the Industrial Revolution in or about 1750 or 270 years ago. I hope you agree that compared to 125,000 years ago, that is a mere blink of an eye. That is rapid change in these terms. But they key, this has already happened. We don’t have to wait for it. As Hayhoe put it,
“We are conducting an unprecedented experiment with our planet. The temperature has only moved a few tenths of a degree for us until now, just small wiggles in the road. But now we are hitting a curve we’ve never seen before.”
No one knows where this will end, but at the 2015 Paris climate agreement most of the countries of the world agreed that if we could not hold the temperature increase to 2C we are in big trouble. They agreed we would limit the rise to 2C and try hard to keep it to 1.5C. For a number of countries anything above 1.5 would be catastrophic. And, of course, most of the countries for whom it will be catastrophic did not cause this problem, but they sure will feel it. I don’t think anyone calls that justice, but as so happens, ‘it sucks to be them.’ We are now on course to go over 2C if we don’t change soon. Some think we are already committed to 2C
Most scientists agree that we are now committed to an increase above 1.5C. Yet most countries, including of course Canada, are not on course to meet the targets they set for themselves in Paris in 2015. No one should be surprised. And we wonder why so many people don’t trust governments when we really need to trust them. They probably don’t deserve to be trusted.
The Secretary general of the UN António Guterres, summed it up in colorful language: “We are on a catastrophic path,” said António Guterres, secretary general of the UN. “We can either save our world or condemn humanity to a hellish future.”
I don’t know if he is exaggerating or not, but a hellish future sounds pretty bad to me.