By Huck Fairman
Recently the latest United Nations’ report sounded the alarm. If we don’t take the necessary actions, “we are sleepwalking toward climate catastrophe.”
Now the World Meteorological Organization, in its annual state of the global climate report, went further: “Things are getting worse.”
As a result, it’s more urgent than ever to stop using fossil fuels. Only if we all join in, can we prevent climate catastrophe.
Secretary General Taalas of the WMO warned that reducing fossil fuel emission will require adopting “drastic measures.”
Why this sudden alarm? Glaciers and permafrost are melting at rates not expected for decades to come. Our current decade will almost certainly be the warmest on record, as the last two years have been the warmest years on record. While global emissions levels had flattened between 2014–16, the last two years saw a resumption of emission level rises.
As many know, the arctic permafrost has stored great amounts of carbon. If that permafrost melts, as it has begun to, at ever-increasing increasing rates, great amounts of carbon will be released into the atmosphere, producing what scientists call “feedback loops,” where the increasing melting releases ever more carbon, which in turn produces more melting.
These feedback loops, along with the melting of glaciers and sea ice, the increasing frequency and strength of storms, such as the huge cyclone that devastated the Philippines this week, along with wildfires in California and Australia, and water shortages elsewhere have all been predicted for some time now. What is new is the unexpected acceleration of these changes.
And while part of that under-estimation came from imperfect measuring technologies, today’s improved, satellite sensors have revealed more clearly the situation mankind has brought upon itself.
Today, scientists have found that Arctic permafrost can range in depth from a few feet below the surface, to several thousand feet, with the consequent increases in the volume of stored carbon.
As that stored carbon is released, it will allow still further warming, melting and carbon releases. Current estimates predict that the Arctic permafrost contains twice as much carbon as is currently in the atmosphere. … What does that mean for our future?
This last summer saw heat from Europe spread north into the Arctic, delivering temperatures 15 degrees higher than normal.
So, not only are temperatures rising, and melting ice and permafrost, but even now the amount of heat-trapping carbon is increasing.
It is possible that in 10 years, at the current rate of warming, summers in the Arctic will be ice-free.
We have known for some time what we need to do. Lately, enhanced meteorological technology has allowed people to see more clearly how we are rapidly bringing change to our planet. And these changes are all encompassing.
Therefore, to respond adequately to these changes, our energy technologies also need to be all encompassing, and undertaken as soon as possible.