Amplified by human impacts: Climate change

In an effort to effectively deal with a changing climate, there is no question humans are making progress. Yet, at the same time in this global fight, anthropogenic forces are facing some strong headwinds.

Many argue it’s a race against the clock. Experts have warned and are warning us that if we don’t head off the current warming trend in time, a tipping point will be reached, meaning climate change’s harshest impacts will be felt by a broad swath of the world’s population. This is, according to them, what we are highly likely to face well within a century’s time if humans don’t get this right.

Weather growing ever more unsteady

From the moment the last ice age ended some 10,000 years ago (pretty much when the dawn of civilization took root), the world has experienced a relatively what we’ll call a “normal” climate or relatively stable climatic condition as a whole. There had not been an extraordinary amount of wild weather, temperature or climate swings, in other words. But, that condition would eventually change, and it did, beginning in the mid-18th century.

There is now a climate uneasiness if you will, the people of the planet seeing firsthand the effects of that. Rising temperatures and seas, ocean acidification, more pervasive drought in some parts and more extensive downpours and flooding in others.

Consistent with these changes is another kind of change: a fluctuation in the concentration of atmospheric greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from both fossil fuel and other types of combustion and releases.

Okay, so, since the start of the Industrial Age when the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere was around an average 275 parts per million (ppm) parts of air, today that number is an average 418 ppm, a jump of about 143 ppm in roughly 270-years’ time, which works out to an increase of approximately one part per million of atmospheric CO2 per annum.

Problem is, the uptick in atmospheric carbon concentration has been non-linear. The CO2 increase initially was slight becoming way more pronounced or steep within, say, the last 70 of these 270 or so years. And the thinking by the vast majority in the scientific community is that with a continued gain in carbon dioxide and other GHG emissions concentrations, the current effects of a changing climate and warming atmosphere will be amplified even further.

As reported in the Sept. 17, 2021 “Full NDC Synthesis Report: Some Progress, but Still a Big Concern,” UN Climate Press Release, greenhouse gas emissions across the globe could grow 16 percent by 2030 above levels present in 2010. And, as to the levels back then? That year, according to UN sources, global GHG emissions totaled some 50 gigatons (billion tons) carbon dioxide equivalent units.

If mitigating action isn’t begun in earnest immediately, an increase in temperature of around 2.7 degrees Celsius by the end of the 21st century is what could be in store.

“‘The 16% increase is a huge cause of concern. It is in sharp contrast with the calls by science for rapid, sustained and large-scale emission reductions to prevent the most severe climate consequences and suffering, especially of the most vulnerable, throughout the world’, [UN Climate Change Executive Secretary] Ms. [Patricia] Espinosa said. ‘The report clearly shows that the NDC [Nationally Determined Contributions] Framework is helping Parties to advance towards fulfilling their commitments under the Paris Agreement’, she added,” information as brought out in the Sept. 17, 2021 UN Climate Press Release in question.

Incidentally, on Fri., Sept 24, 2021, climate rallies were held internationally ahead of the 26th Conference of the Parties [COP-26] climate change summit in Glasgow, Scotland, beginning in Oct. 2021.

– Alan Kandel

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