Climate Change Facts - Atmospheric Impacts
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1. GREENHOUSE GAS LEVELS
  • Currently, the IPCC’s worst‐case scenario forecasts are being realized or exceeded, leading to a catastrophic 1000 parts per million of CO2 by end of century.1,2 To preserve the planet in a similar state as now, humankind must aim to reduce CO2 levels from the current 385 parts per million to a stabilized target of 350 parts per million.3
  • Carbon sinks are saturating and becoming carbon sources that add rather than absorb greenhouse gases:
    • Global plant growth is in a decade-long decline (2000-2009) due to climate change-induced stress from drought. (Science, Aug 2010)4
    • The ocean has absorbed so much CO2 that it is acidifying at an alarming rate. (University of Bristol researchers, in Nature Geoscience, 2010)5
  • With just a 2-degree Celsius average global rise, billions of tons of methane could be released from the Arctic, leading to mass extinctions of life.6
2. RISING TEMPERATURES
  • Without drastic action now, a worst-case scenario rise of 4 degrees Celsius, which means spread of deserts, collapse of the Amazon, and massive release of methane and CO2 gases from melted permafrost, will actually be reached as early as 2060, with a catastrophic  warming of 5-7 degrees likely by century’s end. (UK Met Office, 2009)7,8,9
  • Scientists report that the first eight months of 2010 have been the hottest on record globally. (NASA, 2010)10
  • 2010 was also the year when unprecedented heat and high temperatures were recorded in 16 countries, the highest number ever, including Kuwait, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Chad, Niger, Russia, Myanmar, and Pakistan.11
  • In the past century alone, the temperature has climbed 0.7 degrees Celsius, at a rate 10 times faster than historic norms, due to human causes.12
  • The past ten years have seen the hottest average annual temperatures ever recorded in our planet’s history. (US NASA, 2010)13
  • Without mitigation, much of the USA, for instance, by end of the century would have extreme temperatures of 122 degrees Fahrenheit (50 degrees Celsius). (Geophysical Research Letters paper, 2008)14
  • Pledges made by governments in Copenhagen to reduce greenhouse gases are not enough to avert runaway climate change. They would still lead to a dangerous temperature increase of more than 3 degrees Celsius. (US Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), 2010)15
Reference
  1. McDermott, M. (2009, December 3). Worst-Case IPCC Climate Change Trajectories Are Being Realized: Copenhagen Climate Congress Concludes. treehugger. Retrieved January, 2011 from
    http://www.treehugger.com/files/2009/03/worst-case-ipcc-climate-change-trajectories-being-realized-copenhagen-climate-congress-concludes.php
  2. Romm, J. (2009, March 22). An introduction to global warming impacts: Hell and High Water. Retrieved January 11, 2011 from
    http://climateprogress.org/2009/03/22/an-introduction-to-global-warming-impacts-hell-and-high-water/
  3. He, G. (2008, July 9). Finding a Safe Level of Carbon Dioxide for the Global Atmosphere: Results of the Tallberg Forum. World Resources Institute. Retrieved January 11, 2011 from http://earthtrends.wri.org/updates/node/320
  4. Zhao, M. and Running, S.W. (2010, August 20). Drought-Induced Reduction in Global Terrestrial Net Primary Production from 2000 Through 2009. Science 329(5994), 940-943 [Electronic version]. Retrieved January 11, 2011 from
    http://www.sciencemag.org/content/329/5994/940.abstract
  5. Ridgwell A., and Schmidt, D.N. (2010 , February 14). Past constraints on the vulnerability of marine calcifiers to massive carbon dioxide release. Nature Geoscience online. Retrieved January 11, 2011 from Global Warming University of Bristol news website http://www.bris.ac.uk/news/2010/6835.html
  6. Romm, J. (2010). A stunning year in climate science reveals that human civilization is on the precipice. Climate Progress blog. Retrieved January , 2011 from
    http://climateprogress.org/2010/11/15/year-in-climate-science-climategate/
  7. Shukman, D. (2009, September 29). Four degrees of warming ‘likely’. BBC News. Retrieved January , 2011 from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/8279654.stm
  8. Lynas, M. (2007, April 23). ‘Six steps to hell’ - summary of Six Degrees as published in The Guardian. Retrieved January , 2011 from
    http://www.marklynas.org/2007/4/23/six-steps-to-hell-summary-of-six-degrees-as-published-in-the-guardian
  9. McDermott, M. (2009). 5.2°C Temperature Rise by 2100: New Business-As-Usual Climate Scenario Presented. treehugger. Retrieved January , 2011 from
    http://www.treehugger.com/files/2009/05/5-degree-celsius-temperature-rise-by-2100-new-mit-business-as-usual-scenario.php
  10. Romm, J. (2010). NASA reports hottest January to August on record. Climate Progress blog. Retrieved January 11, 2011 from
    http://climateprogress.org/2010/09/12/nasahottest-january-to-august-on-record/
  11. Highest temperature ever recorded (2010). Wikipedia. Retrieved January 11, 2011 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_weather_records
  12. Riebeek, H. (2010). Global Warming. Retrieved January 11, 2011 from NASA, Earth Observatory website
    http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/GlobalWarming/page3.php
  13. Voiland, A. (2010). 2009: Second Warmest Year on Record; End of Warmest Decade. Retrieved January 11, 2011 from NASA, Science News website
    http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/temp-analysis-2009.html
  14. Romm, J. (2008, July 31). When can we expect extremely high surface temperatures? An online acticle on the Geophysical Research Letters paper. Climate Progress blog. Retrieved January 11, 2011 from http://climateprogress.org/2008/07/31/when-can-we-expect-extremely-high-surface-temperatures/
  15. Vidal, J. (2010, Februay 12 ). Carbon targets pledged at Copenhagen ‘fail to keep temperature rise to 2C’. An online acticle on the US Massachusetts Institute of Technology [MIT] analysis. The Guardian. Retrieved January 11, 2011 from
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/feb/12/copenhagen-carbon-emission-pledges
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