By s4n_bl0g. Global Warming. Published at Tuesday, January 08th, 2019 - 13:57:19 PM.
Thirty years ago, a NASA scientist, James Hansen, told lawmakers at a Senate hearing that “global warming is now large enough that we can ascribe with a high degree of confidence a cause-and-effect relationship with the greenhouse effect.” He added that there “is only 1 percent chance of accidental warming of this magnitude.”
By that, he meant that humans were responsible.
His testimony made headlines around the United States and the world. But in the time since, greenhouse gas emissions, the global temperature average and cost of climate-related heat, wildfires, droughts, flooding and hurricanes have continued to rise.
This fall, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released an alarming report warning that if emissions continue to rise at their present rate, the atmosphere will warm up by as much as 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius) above preindustrial levels by 2040, resulting in the flooding of coastlines, the killing of coral reefs worldwide, and more catastrophic droughts and wildfires.
To avoid this, greenhouse gas emissions would need to fall by nearly half from 2010 levels in the next 12 years and reach a net of zero by 2050. But in the United States, the world’s second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, President Trump continues to question the science of climate change, and his administration is rolling back emissions limits on power plants and fuel economy standards on cars and light trucks, while pushing to accelerate the use of fossil fuels. Other major nations around the world aren’t cutting emissions quickly enough, either.
So what has happened over the last 30 years? Progress has been made in fits and starts, but not nearly enough has been done to confront the planet-altering magnitude of what we have unleashed. Here’s a look at some of what has occurred:
A report to Congress by the Environmental Protection Agency warns that global warming caused by industrial pollutants is likely to shrink forests, destroy most coastal wetlands, reduce water quality and quantity in many areas and otherwise cause extensive environmental disruption in the United States over the next century.
The United Nations and the World Meteorological Organization form the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to report to world leaders on the science of climate change.
Britain’s prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, who earned a degree in chemistry at Oxford, tells the United Nations in a speech, “We are seeing a vast increase in the amount of carbon dioxide reaching the atmosphere.” She warns that, as a result, “change in future is likely to be more fundamental and more widespread than anything we have known hitherto.” She calls for a global treaty on climate change.
In its first report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that “human activities are substantially increasing the atmospheric concentrations of the greenhouse gases” and will lead to a predicted “increase of global mean temperature during the” 21st century “of about 0.3 degrees Celsius per decade,” which it says is “greater than that seen over the past 10,000 years.” That’s a little more than a half-degree Fahrenheit per decade.
An internal study by the oil giant Exxon finds that “warming will clearly affect sea ice, icebergs, permafrost and sea levels” in the Arctic and that “higher sea levels and bigger waves” could “damage the company’s existing and future coastal and offshore infrastructure.”
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