The Blog

NASA: Planet Warming At Fastest Pace In 1,000 Years

The planet is warming at an unprecedented pace not experienced in the past 1000 years. That's according to NASA. That means that it is "very unlikely" that global warming will stay within the 1.5 degrees Celsius limit set by nations last December.
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

The planet is warming at an unprecedented pace not experienced in the past 1000 years. That's according to NASA.

That means that it is "very unlikely" that global warming will stay within the 1.5 degrees Celsius limit set by nations last December. Gavin Schmidt director of Nasa's Goddard Institute for Space Studies said:

In the last 30 years we've really moved into exceptional territory. Maintaining temperatures below the 1.5C guardrail requires significant and very rapid cuts in carbon dioxide emissions or co-ordinated geo-engineering. That is very unlikely. We are not even yet making emissions cuts commensurate with keeping warming below 2C.

The news comes two days after experts declared that man's carbon impact on the planet is now so profound that a new geological epoch -- the Anthropocene -- needs to be declared. This would formally mark end of the Holocene era characterized by 12,000 years of stable climate when all of human civilisation developed.

Prof Chris Rapley, a climate scientist at University College London says:

Since the planet is our life support system -- we are essentially the crew of a largish spaceship -- interference with its functioning at this level and on this scale is highly significant. If you or I were crew on a smaller spacecraft, it would be unthinkable to interfere with the systems that provide us with air, water, fodder and climate control. But the shift into the Anthropocene tells us that we are playing with fire, a potentially reckless mode of behaviour which we are likely to come to regret unless we get a grip on the situation

And, although a 2C temperature rise may not sound like much, the World Bank says that it is enough to push millions of people into poverty as basic resources such as food and water slip out of reach. It expects conflicts over both commodities to erupt over the next couple of years.

According to James Hansen, Nasa's former top climate scientist often dubbed as the grandfather of climate science, global warming will usher in a 2 to 5 meter sea level rise by the end of this century:

Social disruption and economic consequences of such large sea level rise could be devastating. It is not difficult to imagine that conflicts arising from forced migrations and economic collapse might make the planet ungovernable, threatening the very fabric of civilization.

The current conflict in Syria, exacerbated by widespread drought, may be a mere harbinger of things to come. And given the assumed accelerated pace of melting, all this could happen just decades from now, not centuries.

The news comes as monthly temperatures continue to smash records. July was the hottest July since records began over 130 tears ago. And, 2016 is expected to be the warmest year in history, following a record 2015 and 2014:

"It's the long-term trend we have to worry about though and there's no evidence it's going away and lots of reasons to think it's here to stay," says Schmidt, "This is a chronic problem for society for the next 100 years."

According to the United Nations, world temperatures are expected to race past the 4C mark before the turn of this century. Such a temperature change will bring about changes not seen since the last Ice Age, ushering in a mass extinction event.

"In a rational world, this is what every presidential debate would focus on. Forget the mythical flood of immigrants -- concentrate on the actual flooding," writes climate activist Bill McKibben.

Although last year's Paris climate deal was hailed as a historic turning point after over 20 years of failed negotiations, nine months after that accord was inked, only 23 nations representing just 1.1 percent of global emissions have formally ratified it.

That list includes no G20 nation thus far. In order to become enshrined in law, at least 55 nations representing 55 percent of global emissions must sign up.

It requires all nations to create zero emissions by the second half of this century. The zero part is important as carbon emissions remain trapped in the atmosphere for centuries, meaning that even if all emissions stopped tomorrow, world temperatures would continue to march upwards for decades to come.

Last week, a coalition of investors managing some 13 trillion in assets called on the G20 to ratify the deal by the end of this year. The groups two largest members, the U.S. and China have promised to do so before December, but together they only account for 40 percent of global emissions.

Moreover, Donald Trump, the Republican Party's presidential nominee has vowed to scrap the deal if elected this November. And, whilst no country can single handedly cancel the accord, the former star of the Apprentice could undermine the emission cuts promised by the Obama administration, and weaken the resolve of other leaders skeptical about the deal.

Although renewable energy is fast catching up with fossil fuels as a legitimate source of power, according to Microsoft founder Bill Gates, "we need an energy miracle" on par with the the "personal computer. The internet. The polio vaccine."

Much like the abolition of slavery, the end of apartheid and the spread of universal suffrage, radical change can happen when brave people stand up and demand to be heard: In the words of Leonardo DiCaprio:

Climate change is real; it is happening right now. It is the most urgent threat facing our entire species, and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating.

Before You Go

Popular in the Community