ARE HUMANS FACING A CLIMATE EMERGENCY?

Evidence and Actions

William P Hall (PhD)

President, Kororoit Institute

Evolutionary Biology of Species and Organisms

Draft - 21-02-2017

Monthly global anomalies 2016-17

ANIMATION: Anomalies in average temperature over the world for each month of the calendar since January 2016 through January 2017 compared to averages for the same months in the baseline years 1979-2010. A temperature anomaly is the number of C that the average temperature for the specified time period deviates from an average temperature for the same periods over over a number of years forming the baseline. For this map, the baseline years are from 1981 through 2010, inclusive. Note that WeatherBELL uses a somewhat warmer baseline (1981-2010) for measuring its anomalies compared to Climate Reanalyzer's 1979-2000 baseline (If you click the link, click the ">" to see an animation of the daily anomalies for the month . Orange and brownish red areas in the arctic represent anomalies between 1 and 7C, grey to white are anomalies between 7 and 10 C, white to pinkish red are 11 to 16 C hotter than the baseline for the same month. The maximum anomalyshown is 16 C. These anomalies extending over several months when there is no possibility of solar heating because the sun us below the horizon are unprecedented.

The issue

Global average temperatures have apparently been rising since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Some people have attributed this to CO2 released by the combustion of fossil fuels helping to form a "greenhouse" layer in the atmosphere. As in a glasshouse, atmospheric CO2 reduces the loss of heat to outer space from solar heating that has warmed the Earth's surface and lower atmosphere. As the effectiveness of the greenhouse increases with the accumulation of more CO2 temperature also increases until the balance between the heat energy carried by incoming solar radiation balances the heat energy escaping to outer space in the form of infra-red radiation to create the phenomenon known as "global warming"

The growth of human populations accelerated rapidly with the help of industrially produced tools as the combustion of carbonaceous fossil fuels enabled an even faster acceleration of material production, leading to ever higher concentrations greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Many people now think that humanity is facing a climate emergency as the accelerating increases in global average temperature are contributing to increasingly extreme weather events that are initiating the beginnings of ecosystem collapse due to die-offs of temperature sensitive keystone species as extreme temperatures exceed their physiological limits. For example, large swathes of Australia's Great Barrier Reef are now effectively dead as a consequence of coral bleaching. Also, large areas of tropical, temperate, and subarctic forest are already dieing off as trees are killed by fire and bark beetle infestation enabled by rising winter minimum temperatures, drought, and extreme summer temperatures.

If global temperatures continue to increase, some desert and high humidity areas of the planet will become uninhabitable to humans as their physiological capacity to shed body heat by sweating. Areas of the humid tropics and subtropical deserts are already marginal because ambient temperatures exceed human body temperatures, and if people cannot keep their body temperatures within physiological limits they die within hours (witness the all too frequent deaths of children left in locked cars by their unthinking parents). Agricultural ecosystems may collapse because of increased drought - where soil moisture evaporates much faster with increasing temperature, die-off of temperature sensitive pollinators or essential soil organisms (we are not likely to know what these are until it is too late).

Some important concepts

The following paragraphs define what climate is, and why it is important that we understand it. Key terms are linked to their definitions and explanations in Wikipedia.

Climate is the result of the dynamical interactions of a complex array of inputs and outputs involving (a) the Earth's atmosphere we breath, (b) its lithosphere where we grow our crops, (c) its hydrosphere that holds and processes water essential for all living things, (d) its cryosphere that accounts for water in its frozen form where snow and ice provide essential thermoregulatory services for the planet, and (e) its biosphere or ecosphere that includes all living things on the planet and their organic inputs and outputs. In other words, Earth's climate is a complex, dynamical, and chaotic system.

Beyond the direct effects of rising temperature on living systems, rising temperatures can have profound effects on climate systems themselves through processes of positive feedback, whereby an increase in one variable causes another variable to increase in a way that in turn further accelerates the rate of increase in the first variable. Because of feedbacks, few variables in the climate change in direct proportion to changes in other variables, such that some small change cause minimal effects whereas others may cause major and even extreme effects due to shorter or longer periods of runaway feedback.

The animation at the top of this page illustrates the progression of temperature anomalies around the globe for 2016 and the beginning of 2017. To me these observations on top of a number of others suggest that runaway feedback in the high Arctic may be driving temperatures ever higher due to the release of the potent greenhouse gas methane from permafrost melted by the increasing temperatures.

The existential risk posed by runaway warming in the Arctic

In the form of an essay, "Is this the start of runaway global warming?", I have collected and present a variety of evidence relating to different components of the Earth's climate systems and discuss what they seem to represent is happening with world climates from the standpoint of what these imply for humanity's future on the one planet we inhabit.

The runaway global warming essay stands alone, but on this page I will be adding links to my Facebook pages and other comments and notes that contribute further evidence for ongoing global warming and the risks associated with it.


Facebook

Go to the facebook posts for commentary, pro and con, relating to the article.

(20 Feb 2017) - Simple statistics explains how even small increases in global temperature can have a major effect on ecosystems.

(20 Feb 2017) - New bleaching of coral on Great Barrier Reef hightens fears of coral die-off.

(13 Feb 2017) - Global sea ice coverage is approaching an all-time low for the era of satellite observations beginning in 1979.

(31 Jan 2017) - Forbes (well known for its fake news denying global warming) publishes an article about scientists launching a brainy attack on false news.

(31 Jan 2017) - Another Forbes article reporting that 2016 was the world's hottest year ever.

(29 Jan 2017) - Too many people is the fundamental problem driving global warming and a lot more.

(27 Jan 2017) - A Washington Post article and my comments on it relating to the physics behind rising sea levels.

(24 Jan 2017) - My warning that observations suggested that the Antarctic Ocean was going to have a record low coverage of sea ice this year.

(20 Jan 2017) - Evidence that continental ice sheets are sensitive to slight increases in ocean temperature suggests ocean levels will continue to rise for centuries.

(19 Jan 2017) - Loss of soil carbon under global warming might equal U.S. emissions.

(18 Jan 2017) - Halley VI Ice Station had to be moved because of disappearing sea ice and fracturing ice shelf.

Halley VI Ice Station