If you felt like July was unusually hot, then you will be pleased to know that it wasn’t just you. July was, in fact, the hottest month in the past 140 years, with global temperatures sitting at 71 degrees F above the average temperature.
In a new report produced by the Science Advisory Group of the UN Climate Action Summit 2019, a clear view of our current environmental situation has been elaborated — and it’s not a rosy picture. At our current pace, we are well on our way to record the hottest five-year average temperature, at around 1.1°C higher than pre-industrial temperatures.
Global Warming: The Earth in Dire Straits
The ramifications of this increased temperature are myriad. Increased heat typically leads to reduced crop yields, drastically reduced worker productivity, increased incidence of skin cancer, and a whole host of deleterious side effects. Most recently, July’s heatwave was also felt at the poles, with arctic sea ice dropping to record low levels, currently sitting at just 4.21 million square kilometers and declining by around 12.8% per decade.
It’s not just global temperatures that are on the rise either. CO2 emissions from global fossil fuel use are also increasing at a rate of around 1% per year (or 2% in 2018), which is equivalent to more than 37 billion tons of CO2 dumped into the atmosphere every year. As it stands, carbon dioxide and methane levels are at 146% and 256% respectively compared to pre-industrial levels.
— CNET (@CNET) September 22, 2019
These gases contribute to what is known as the greenhouse effect, in which molecules like CO2 absorb infrared light, radiating it back to the Earth surface rather than emitting it back into space and increasing the temperature.
Overall, the report paints a bleak picture of our current situation. Although greenhouse gas emissions are growing slower than the world economy, emissions are not expected to reach their peak until at least 2030. Implementing current greenhouse gas reduction policies until 2100 would be woefully insufficient in slowing global warming, leading to a global mean temperature rise of as much 3.4°C by 2100.
Because of this, the United Nations Environment Programme calls for countries to increase their NGCs by at least three-fold, which should allow us to slow global warming enough so that the temperature increase is at or below 2°C by 2100. If these policies are not implemented by 2030, warming above 2°C may be unavoidable. Above this temperature, global ecosystems, agriculture, and human livelihoods will be seriously affected.
UN Climate Summit
Tomorrow, the UN Climate Action Summit will take place, where UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will convene with world leaders from over 50 countries with the goal of addressing climate change. Here, it is expected that most countries will commit to an enhanced agreement to reduce emissions below that set out in the 2016 Paris agreement, with the goal of achieving carbon neutrality sooner, rather than later.
However, some governments, including that of the U.S. and China have often been criticized about their firm-footed approach to climate change. Regardless, hopes are high that both economies will double down on their efforts to reduce climate change, which should help ease the burden on other countries.
What do you think the outcome of the UN Climate Action Summit will be? Will there be representatives from the U.S. and China present? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
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