NASA, NOAA and EEMA all agree that the past eight years have been the warmest ever recorded. Find out how this led to more extreme weather last year, and how we can address the climate crisis.
The weather has been changing around here since I was a boy in the 1960s. Winters are warmer, we have less snow, storms are more intense, and the temperature swings wildly from day to day.
Summers weren’t as hot as they are now, and we never had the intense, almost tropical thunderstorms we experience today. It seems like temperate spring and fall seasons are becoming a thing of the past.
Weather isn’t climate, but it’s no secret why these changes are happening. Back in 1896, Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius identified the correlation between C02 in our atmosphere and rising temperatures.
Arrhenius Identified C02 Correlation Back in 1896
He didn’t exactly keep it to himself, either. Here’s a news item from 1902 reporting his discovery.
Other scientists confirmed the discovery. For example, this human interest item hit the newswires in 1912.
So we’ve known that burning fossil fuels causes global warming for at least a century. The evidence kept pouring in, and in 1959 scientist Edward Teller told the American Petroleum institute that, “It has been calculated that a temperature rise corresponding to a 10 per cent increase in carbon dioxide will be sufficient to melt the icecap and submerge New York. At present the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has risen by 2 per cent over normal. By 1970, it will be perhaps 4 per cent, by 1980, 8 per cent, by 1990, 16 per cent if we keep on with our exponential rise in the use of purely conventional fuels.”.
Lyndon Johnson’s Science Advisory Committee reported in 1965 that, “An increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide could act, much like the glass in a greenhouse, to raise the temperature of the lower air.” That’s where we get the term “greenhouse effect.”
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) set up the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988. A great deal of the primary research to which scientists and policymakers refer comes from IPCC reports.
Concern Took Off in 1981 with James Hansen’s Paper
Our contemporary concern with climate change took off in 1981 when James Hansen, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies published, with colleagues, a paper called Climate impact of increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide.
Since then, research in the climate change field has expanded rapidly. Today, essentially all climate scientists agree that the climate crisis is real and caused by human activity.
NASA confirmed that again last week when it released its temperature record for 2021. It showed that Earth in 2021 was roughly 1.1˚C warmer than pre-industrial levels.
2021 Was Sixth Warmest Year on Record
2021 was the sixth warmest on record, tied with 2018. This wasn’t a blip. Instead, it showed that the past eight years have been the warmest period since scientists started keeping weather records in 1880.
Last year was a La Niña year, which usually means a cooling effect for the atmosphere. Scientists tell us that the temperature rise would have been about 0.03˚C warmer without the La Niña effect.
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson explained this data this way. “Science leaves no room for doubt: Climate change is the existential threat of our time. Eight of the top 10 warmest years on our planet occurred in the last decade, an indisputable fact that underscores the need for bold action to safeguard the future of our country – and all of humanity.”
“Science Leaves No Room for Doubt”
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) conducts independent temperature studies with a different methodology. Their results confirm that the global surface temperature for 2021 was the sixth highest on record.
Further confirmation arrived from Europe. The European Earth Monitoring Agency (EEMA)’s Copernicus program showed that the last seven years were the hottest in recorded history. Their only quibble was placing 2021 in fifth place instead of sixth.
The point of all this isn’t to compare one year with another. Instead, climate scientists consider the long-term trend. “The complexity of the various analyses doesn’t matter because the signals are so strong,” explained NASA’s GISS Director Gavin Schmidt. “The trends are all the same because the trends are so large.”
Wildfires Wiped Out Community of Lytton, BC
We see the effects of these climbing temperatures everywhere. Here in Canada, British Columbia experienced a “heat dome” that caused wildfires to wipe out the community of Lytton. This came after Lytton’s weather station recorded a record temperature of 49.6˚C.
Then, in the middle of the COP26 conference in Glasgow, what meteorologists are calling “atmospheric rivers” caused massive flooding. The deluge led to the evacuations of thousands of people, and caused severe damage to critical infrastructure.
Here in Ontario, we saw a series of Force 2 tornadoes. With wind speeds of between 180 and 220 km/hr, they ripped through the province on July 15, devastating the City of Barrie.
Past the Point Where There’s Any Serious Debate
We’re now well past the point where there’s any serious debate about whether the climate crisis is real or caused by humans. Further, these severe weather events demonstrate the very real cost of doing nothing about our climate.
At the root of all this is a worldview in which the Earth is seen as a clump of natural resources to be exploited for the benefit of Humanity alone. We’re coming to realize that his isn’t how Nature or our Universe works.
Humanity needs a new, ecologically based, story in which we understand that we are part of an intricate, interrelated living system. The future lies in renewable and sustainable energy solutions that can power our needs without extinguishing our future, or that of future generations.
Power Our Needs Without Extinguishing Our Future
Here in Canada, the strategy to move in that direction includes hydroelectricity, bioenergy, wind power, solar energy, geothermal energy, and marine energy. The National Research Council created the Advanced Clean Energy Program (ACEP) to accelerate the development of clean, renewable fuels as well as energy storage materials and devices.
The delays we’ve experienced because of pointless ideological debates have placed us in a position where we have to discover how to implement the solutions on the fly. Humanity needs programs like the ACEP in every country to meet the challenges and opportunities the climate crisis poses.
We always have more to learn if we dare to know.
2021 tied for 6th Warmest Year in Continued Trend
GISS Surface Temperature Analysis
Copernicus Climate Change Service in 2021
The Impacts of a Changing Climate: Canada’s Top Ten Weather Stories of 2021
Climate Crisis Becomes Undeniable
Hottest Decade Ever Recorded Announced by UN
Carbon Taxes Are the Best Way to Fight Climate Change