If you’ve been reading this column for any time, you may have noticed I try to stay away from politically motivated topics. The time has come to take a stand. Climate change is here.
I realize this is a controversial and highly polarizing subject, even within my own family. I know those who claim it isn’t real typically announce that climate change comes in cycles. I decided to go to the best experts I could find – NASA at https://climate.nasa.gov/evidence.
The website opens to a large graph that illustrates atmospheric cycles of carbon dioxide over the last 800,000 years. During that time, it had never gone above 300 parts per million. However, since 1950, it has spiked to about 410 ppm.
NASA further confirms the scientific consensus: “Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities, and most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position.”
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change adds, “Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal.”
The evidence for rapid climate change is compelling, as outlined by the NASA website:
• Global temperature rise: “The planet’s average surface temperature has risen about 1.6 degrees Fahrenheit since the late 19th century,” the website says, “a change driven largely by increased CO2 and other human-made emissions. ... Most of the warming occurred in the past 35 years, with the five warmest years on record taking place since 2010 ...”
• Warming oceans: “The oceans have absorbed much of this increased heat, with the top 2,300 feet of ocean showing warming of more than .4 degrees Fahrenheit since 1969.”
• Shrinking ice sheets: “The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have decreased in mass. Data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment show Greenland lost an average of 286 billion tons of ice per year between 1993 and 2016…the rate of Antarctica ice mass loss has tripled in the last decade.”
• Glacial retreat: “Glaciers are retreating almost everywhere around the world – including the Alps, Himalayas, Andes, Rockies, Alaska, and Africa.”
• Decreased snow cover: “Satellite observations reveal that the amount of spring snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere has decreased over the past five decades and that the snow is melting earlier.”
• Sea level rise: “Global sea level rose about 8 inches in the last century. The rate in the last two decades, however, is nearly double that of the last century and is accelerating slightly every year.”
• Declining Arctic sea ice: “Both the extent and thickness of Arctic sea ice has declined rapidly over the last several decades.”
• Extreme events: “The number of record high temperature events in the United States has been increasing, while the number of record low temperature events has been decreasing, since 1950. The U.S. has also witnessed increasing numbers of intense rainfall events.”
• Ocean Acidification: “Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the acidity of surface ocean waters has increased by about 30 percent. This increase is the result of people emitting more CO2 into the atmosphere and hence more being absorbed into the oceans. The amount of CO2 absorbed by the upper layer of the oceans is increasing by about 2 billion tons per year.”
Does this convince anyone?
Lynn Youngblood is the executive director of the Blue River Watershed Association in Kansas City. Reach her at TheGreenSpace@sbcglobal.net.