Nearly 98 percent of climate scientists agree that the earth is heating up, and it’s a fact that’s hard to dispute when, in 2012, we experienced the hottest year on record! But our hot year didn’t come from out of the blue. The heat’s been building for a long time. Average global temperatures have gone up by about 0.8 degrees Celsius since 1880, and nine of the ten hottest years since then have occurred since the year 2000. And we’re just getting started!
A number of studies have concluded that our current rates of fossil fuel emissions could send temperatures up by as much as six degrees Celsius by 2100. To better understand this number, we go to the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that predicts an increase of 3.5 degrees would force the extinction of 40 to 70 percent of the species who have been studied so far in relation to climate change.
Not only was 2012 the hottest year on record, it was also a perfect example of the patterns scientists have told us could be the new normal:
1. U. S. temperatures broke more than 40,000 daily heat records this summer. These temperatures set the stage for one of the worst wildfire seasons we’ve ever had in the West. And, right now, Australia is literally on fire. Their government had to come up with a new color on maps that represent temperatures. The new color, purple, stands for areas that have reached 110-120 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Droughts affected almost 80 percent of of U.S. agricultural land in 2012, and are still in effect in our country’s mid-section.
3. Superstorm Sandy, the largest Atlantic hurricane ever recorded, came to the Eastern Seaboard in October. It killed more than 100 people, knocked out power for millions, and ended up costing more than $60 billion.
4. Other costly disasters have occurred more and more often in the U.S. over the past thirty years. The number of thunderstorms, floods, wildfires, droughts, and tornadoes has quintupled during that time.
If these events have already occurred, what does the future hold? Let’s look at the San Francisco Bay Area, where I live, as an example. By 2050, San Francisco could see flooding of the local airports, homes of more than 100,000 people, and Silicon Valley businesses. These flood levels could reach six feet by 2100. The flooding would also make us more vulnerable to earthquakes and tsunamis.
Global warming will affect the snowfall in the Sierras, where we get about one third of our water and diminish the fog on our coast. We could actually lose all of our redwoods since they depend on that fog for their existence!
If we could suddenly see these changes in play today, we wouldn’t even recognize the Bay Area!
Please see my blog post entitled “The Reckoning” to read what steps we need to take to prevent these catastrophies from happening.