Section 2.5: Climate Change – The Facts

According to NASA, by 2018 the world’s global temperature has risen 0.82 degrees Celsius since 1884. The past five years have been the hottest ever recorded. With an increade of 0.98 degrees Celsius, the year 2016 ranks as the warmest year on record. 2019 continues the trend, with July 2019 being the hottest month ever recorded.

The spiral video-graph below shows how this rise has taken place over the years: 

The vast majority of scientists believe that these increases in temperature are caused by accumulating concentrations of greenhouse gases and other human activities according to a study that reviewed 12,500 scientific articles. In addition, a 2013 paper on the scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate change indicates a 97% certainty that climate change is human-caused.

The effects of climate change could be devastating, such as changing global weather patterns, food and water scarcity, and displacing tens of millions of people. The concern about temperature rise and associated climate change is so prevalent, that in 2015 during the 21st yearly session of the Conference of Parties (COP21) at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, 197 countries agreed to take action to halt temperature rise to within 2°C. This Paris Agreement  was ratified by 111 countries.

The significance of the 2°C number is explained by William Brangham in this PBS podcast. As part of the global effort to limit climate change, the international Carbon Tracker Initiative was commenced. It currently estimates that 60 – 80% of the world’s remaining fossil fuel stocks have to remain untouched in order to limit global temperature rise to 2°C. The effects of climate change can even be felt locally – take a look via this link: Climate Change in Switzerland.

Simple answers to some of the important FAQs about climate change can be found here: “Short Answers to Hard Questions About Climate Change

Click the links to learn more about the contributory factors to climate change

2.5.1 Greenhouse Gases – What are they?
2.5.2 The Enhanced Greenhouse Effect
2.5.3 The Albedo Effect

Climate change is already having a significant impact upon ecosystems, communities and economies globally. Without meaningful action, the numerous impacts of climate change threaten to catastrophically damage the earth and alter life as we know it.

Visualize the global/regional risks and vulnerabilities to the numerous climate change impacts via this link: Climate Impact Lab

Explore and learn about some of main impacts of climate change via the links below.

2.5.4 Increase in Extreme Weather Events
2.5.5 Rising Sea Levels
2.5.6 Food Insecurity
2.5.7 Ocean Acidification

Please also read the report by Goldman Sachs on the impacts of climate change on cities.

Supplementary Resources

Mapping Climate Change Vulnerability and Impact Scenarios

The Royal Society and National Academy of Sciences “Climate Change: Evidence and Causes” 

Business Insider Article (2014) “25 Devastating Effects of Climate Change”

World Bank Group (2010) “Development and Climate Change”

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