An article in the US National Geographic I stumbled upon suggested our extreme weather events are down to both bad luck and climate change. This may conveniently have the neutralizing effect of allowing readers to dismiss the climate crisis as just plain unlucky. I wonder if those same readers, many driving their SUVs to the corner store 200 meters away, know their country has the biggest carbon footprint per capita on the planet.
“Last year broke weather records left, right and centre” so read a statement from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) on the global climate. That was in 2016. What happened then already seems tame by comparison to the changes and extreme weather events we have already witnessed in 2021.
Oceans have been warming for some time. As ice has been melting there is less white surface area on Earth’s polar and snow covered regions to send back the Suns radiation into space, meaning ocean temperatures increase, leading to more melting ice, and so the cycle repeats, creating a “feedback loop“.
The WMO believed back then that real indicators of global warming are the oceans and there were many new records being set for higher ocean temperatures.
So, what if climate temperature changes? It is interesting to compare scientific news in 2015 on record breaking temperatures with those recorded today, just a few years later. A New Scientist report in 2015 on UK temperatures suggested that the highest UK temperature ever recorded had been broken, at 36.7 °C . In 2021, 6 years later, the UK record is 38.7 °C according to Met Office data. In Germany in 2015 the record was broken at 40.3 °C, now the record is 42.6 °C. In Spain in 2015 the record broken was 42.6 °C, and today, on the day of writing this article 16th August 2021, the hottest day ever was recorded for Spain in the Anda region at 47.2°C. Global temperatures this year are 0.9°C hotter than the 20th century average.
As we know extreme heat causes fires, like those in Greece and California this year which contribute further to greenhouse gas emissions as the burning of trees releases carbon into the atmosphere.
According to a report by the Met Office we will see an increase in heatwaves and drought.
Because warmer air holds more water, we are also likely to see increased rainfall. However, this is not likely to be balanced, as changing wind patterns will mean some areas will get more intense rainfall. Where this impacts in cities and urban areas, severe flooding is a likely consequence, as there are less places for the water to travel and be absorbed quickly, as we have already seen in some of China’s cities in 2021. In the past 25 years the UK has seen seven of the wettest years on record.
What are the most serious likely consequences to humans of these changes? These could be the disruption to food supplies and distribution, the inevitable risks of flooding in coastal areas, mass migration driven by climate, damage to marine ecosystems, and loss of biodiversity.
The only way to counter these changes is massively reducing our carbon footprint through massive changes to our lifestyle, the cause of global warming, and doing what we can to capture carbon dioxide and the gases fuelling temperature rises already present.
In short, the more trees we grow as well as reducing our dependence on fossil fuels, the more time we can buy ourselves to find new ways of living that are more sustainable. The biggest challenge could yet be how we persuade those nations with the biggest carbon footprint per capita to adopt those changes.
More trees please, before our luck runs out. If you’d like to support more trees being planted and maintained, take a look at our most recent crowdfunder: