On the fiftieth anniversary of what could be considered the birth of global warming analysis, meteorologists are waiting for the atmosphere to make its next move in response to anthropogenic meddling.
The upward surge in temperature in connection with the recent El Niño was stark, but La Niña has brought temperatures back to the long-term trend line — still upward.
Worldwide carbon dioxide emissions rose for the first time in four years, as atmospheric levels of the major greenhouse gas rise unabated.
And politicians are preparing for COP24, the annual meeting pursuant to the 2015 Paris Climate Accord.
Let’s check it all out.
50 Years Of Climate Change Predictions
2018 marks a seminal year in the ongoing saga of man-made climate change. On January 1, 1968, Stanford Research Institute submitted a report to the American Petroleum Institute warning that continued emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere could bring about disastrous weather changes. The report was remarkably prescient. The fossil fuel industry, predictably, did nothing. That inaction can be understood, as global warming was not a big issue in 1968, nor for many years after. But today, as those who contribute to CO2 emissions, both industries and countries, drag their feet on reforms, they need to be assessed more responsibility for climate change.
Worldwide Carbon Dioxide Emission Levels, Steady From 2014 To 2016, Rose Again In 2017
It’s clear that carbon dioxide emissions are harming the planet; some scientists even think they are killing the planet. Either way, there is much talk about what to do and relatively little being done. This is understandable, given the world’s generally capitalistic approach to economics and the desire of politicians to cater to the needs and wants of their constituents.
So let’s give credit where it’s due. The politicians DID come together to craft a united climate policy in 2015 — a remarkable agreement involving virtually all the countries of the globe. And some fossil-fuel-dependent businesses have made improvements in their contribution to emissions.
But let’s face facts: China, an enormous emitter, has increased dependence on coal recently in response to demands by its citizens for power. India is building new coal-fired power plants. Emissions by the US and Europe did not decline as rapidly as in the previous few years. And so, total carbon dioxide emissions increased in 2017 for the first time in four years by an estimated two per cent.
Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Approaches New High
A leveling off of carbon dioxide emissions should not be confused with the trend of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Because carbon dioxide is long-lived in the atmosphere, it will continue to accumulate even as emissions decline. Atmospheric carbon dioxide, heading towards its annual maximum in May, is creeping up on 420 parts per million (ppm), which will represent a 50% increase over pre-industrialization levels.
An increase of that magnitude in less than two hundred years is evident in the historical record only in connection with mass extinctions.
Will COP24 Finally Be The Turning Point?
Representatives of the Paris Climate Accord signatories will meet in Poland in December as time begins to run out on implementing the proposals of the agreement; mandatory emissions limits are supposed to be in place by 2020. Pretty much everyone knows what the end goal is: A world powered by renewable sources, mainly wind and sun. The question is: Who pays how much to get there?
Solar power is likely to be the dominant energy source of Earth 2100, though our planet receives only about one one-billionth of the sun’s total energy output. An anonymous source said if God wanted us to use the sun for power, he wouldn’t have put it 93 million miles away. Still, that .0000001% of the sun’s output provides plenty of energy to power the world. COP24 will grapple with the question of how to use that tiny fraction of the sun’s energy to get to Earth 2100.
Global Temperatures Return To Trend In February
The modest La Niña that has cooled the tropical Pacific Ocean has led the world back to the normal temperature increase of around 1 C (1.8 F) per century after the scary rise during El Niño. But complacency is not an option. Though February, 2018 was only the 11th warmest in the 120 year record, consider the following:
- It was the 42nd consecutive February above the 20th century average
- It was the 398th consecutive month above the 20th century average
- New all-time high temperature records were set somewhere in every ocean and on four continents
- There were no new cold temperature records
Let’s hope the negotiators at COP24 view the current evidence that the atmosphere is not yet out of control as an opportunity to act — not one to be complacent.
The next Climate Change Checkup will be published after the release of NOAA’s March data at mid-month.
The next Weather Around The World will be published on April 3, 2018.