It’s hard to believe the Earth is warming

Rousing the Rabble column by Roy Ronaghan, Dec. 9 Grand Forks Gazette.

When the temperature drops to double digit below zero readings and I’m having difficulty keeping warm on my daily walks, it’s hard to believe that Earth is warming at an alarming rate. It’s even harder to believe that the hottest five-year period on record is 2011-2015. With a month left in the collection process, the data shows clearly that exceptionally high temperatures have been achieved.

The information on warming can be found on the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) website and on Resilience.org.

The reasons given by the WMO for the increase in temperature are “a combination of rising greenhouse gases and a boost from the strong El Nino underway in the Pacific.”

The WMO announcement coincides with the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) that began in Paris on Nov. 30 with the aim of negotiating a deal to reduce global emissions that 196 world countries can agree to. Of note is that 20 other conferences failed to achieve the same goal. The Kyoto Protocol was successful in some respects. Canada signed it in 1998, ratified it in 2002, but did not meet its targets. In late 2011 Canada withdrew, the first country to do so.

Dr. Ed Hawkins from the University of Reading in England thinks the complete data for 2015 will show that Earth’s temperature has passed 1º C. Hawkins is reported to have stated, “Roughly 1º C of this warming, or around 95 per cent, is due to human activity. Natural cycles in the climate system, including El Nino, solar activity and natural variations in weather, are likely to be responsible for the remainder of the warming.”

What are the global impacts of the temperature increase? There are several:

• Ocean heat content in the top 700-2,000 metres reached record high levels in the first nine months of 2015.

• Global average sea level in the first half of the year was the highest since the start of satellite records in 1993.

• During the period January to October 2015, most places on land were warmer on average.

• Heat waves affected Europe, North America and the Middle East in the spring and summer 2015.

• Many places around the globe experienced unusual rainfall patterns.

Michael Jarraud, Secretary General of the WMO, stated in a press release on Nov. 25, “The state of the global climate in 2015 will make history as for a number of reasons…2015 is likely to be the hottest on record, with ocean surface temperatures at the highest level since measurements began. It is probable that the 1º C threshold will be crossed…this is all bad news for the planet.”

Jarraud had the following message for the negotiators at COP21 as they gathered in Paris: “Greenhouse gas emissions, which are causing climate change, can be controlled. We have the knowledge and the tools to act. We have a choice. Future generations will not.”

2015 will be seen as an exceptional year, says David Reay, professor of Carbon Management at the University of Edinburgh. “Climate records have been broken with such frequency in recent years that it is easy to overlook what a significant year 2015 has been. The history books will tell its tale of threshold-busting carbon dioxide levels and extreme temperatures. Whether the final chapter for 2015 will include a more positive footnote is now all down to Paris.”

At the end of the hottest year on record I can grumble about how cold it has been and scoff at the facts that tell me that Earth is warming. However, I must accept that the summer of 2015 in Boundary Country was a sample of what’s to come and there will no return to former climate patterns. I know that we entered a new era decades ago that may or may not be to my liking but I have had a part in its making and I now have no choice but to adapt and that will be a challenge.