Human activity is changing the climate. In pre-industrial times, the carbon dioxide (C02) level in the atmosphere was 280 ppm (part per million). In 2014, the level is 400 ppm and levels are accelerating. 400 ppm is considered a “tipping point”. The point of no return, or tipping point is between 400-500 ppm and everything must be done to reduce fossil fuel consumption. Emissions of new, man made C02 into the atmosphere in 2013 were a record 40 billion tons, up from 34.5 in 2012 (1 cubic meter of C02 weighs 2 kg). This would fill 480,000 stadiums seating 100,000.
The NOAA (U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) stated in July 2012 that the major cause of bad weather is man made. The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; a group of 2,500 independent scientists) has consistently warned that fossil fuel emissions (C02) are causing climate change. The conclusion is that current droughts and storms are not a cycle. Each year they will become more severe because fossil fuel emissions in the atmosphere are cumulative. Drought areas are increasing at the rate of 12 million hectares per year (3.7 times the size of Vancouver Island, or almost the size of England) and are predicted to cover 40% of the earth's land surface.
C02, water vapor and methane are greenhouse gases (ghg’s) that trap heat of the sun in the atmosphere – its not C02 alone. It’s a triple hit. Methane is 23 times as powerful a ghg than C02, and more is released the warmer it gets. For every degree C the atmosphere warms the atmosphere can hold 7% more water vapor. Water vapor, methane, and C02 act together to raise temperatures. Added heat and more water vapor create stronger storms, climate change in traditional agricultural areas, heat waves, changing winters, flooding from "atmospheric rivers", downpours, deserts, melting glaciers, and rising sea levels. This is unbelievably dangerous, and more people should ‘get it’. As of Mar. 2015, the milestone of 400 ppm of C02 are in the world's atmosphere - the highest in 2 million years and increasing at a record pace.
Over the last century there has been a 1 degree C (1.5F) rise in temperature which is high by earth’s standards. Elevated C02 levels today are melting the Arctic seas. With a rise of 1 more degree the Greenland ice sheet will melt, and it is already starting. We are over a 1 degree rise.
If the world heats up by another 2 degrees C the results will be catastrophic. A new world conference attended by up to 24,000 people in Copenhagen in the fall of 2010 sounded the alarm. This level was expected at 2050 but we are quickly approaching it now. 2014 was almost 2C higher than the 20th century average (NOAA), and ocean temperatures are the hottest on record.
A 3 degree rise in temperature guarantees disaster. This will cause the Greenland sheet to melt completely, and the ocean levels will rise more than 25 m (80’). A 3 degree rise would burn away the Amazon forest, flood major cities and lowlands, and release more C02 from the melting of the methane hydrates now frozen on the floor of the Arctic ocean. There are more methane hydrates than all the known oil and gas, and methane is 8 times more potent as a greenhouse gas as C02. There was a 3 degree rise 3 million years ago, and sea levels were 25 m (80’) higher than today. If we follow the current rate of fossil fuel burning, then temperatures will rise 2-3 degrees by mid century, much sooner than predicted.
Less Than a Decade Left
There is less than a decade left to stop the rise of 1 degree. Emissions must level off. Lowering the particulate in North America will not stop the particulate pollution in India (1 million people per year die of air pollution) and China. So we still face the same problem of particulate pollution. If particulate pollution is eliminated then warming will accelerate. There is no choice but to lower fossil fuel burning. As it is, agriculture in California and Mexico will fall dramatically or cease from a lack of water. This has already started. Production will have to shift to other regions.
A larger greenhouse industry is needed to protect food production. SG grows crops with 1/10 of the water used by arid agriculture, and is powered with heat and electricity from renewable fuels which are carbon neutral and with minimal particulate. This is the future of sustainable food growing.
(Sources: NASA, Goddard Space Institute, Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change)