Have you seen the Federal government's latest climate report? Even if you typically follow climate change, you might have missed it. The U.S. Global Change Research Program – a part of the federal government – released it over Thanksgiving weekend, when you (and everyone else) were probably more concerned with your post-turkey nap and Black Friday deals than the latest climate news.
But you'll want to pay attention to this one. That's because the report says that warming is likely to increase by at least 3 degrees Celsius by 2100 unless we dramatically curb emissions. And warming “could increase by 9°F (5°C) or more by the end of this century," the Huffington Post reports.
That far, far exceeds the 1.5 degrees Celsius global warming limit goal set out by the Paris Agreement, an international climate agreement signed in 2015. And it also far exceeds the warming limit to prevent a major global disaster.
Here's How 3 Degrees of Warming Would Affect The Earth
At first glance, a change of 3 C to 5 C might not sound so bad – after the temp changes way more than that from morning to midday. But as the National Academy of Sciences explains, every single degree of global warming causes:
- Up to a 15 percent decrease in crop yield
- A 200 to 400 percent increase in the size of wildfires in the United States
- An up to 10 percent change in the amount of precipitation falling. That could mean more snow and rain than usual, or droughts from much less rain.
When you break down how each degree of climate change can dramatically alter food production, influence natural disasters (like intense rainfalls and flooding) and make wildfires worse, it's easier to see how a change up to 5 degrees would have an huge impact on us.
Another major consequence: the rising sea level. Many of the world's major cities – like New York City, London and Shanghai – are located on the water. Global warming makes these major economic centers much more prone to flooding or become partially submerged, which would have economic consequences worldwide.
Then there's the effect on ecosystems. Changes in the climate lead to habitat loss for some species, and it can wipe out entire ecosystems, like coral reefs. At the same time, climate change can make other organisms – including disease vectors like mosquitos and ticks – more prevalent, causing more health problems for humans.
Here's How The Trump Administration is Reacting
Though the climate report was released by part of the federal government, President Donald Trump has reiterated his belief that human-driven climate change is a hoax.
"One of the problems that a lot of people like myself - we have very high levels of intelligence, but we’re not necessarily such believers,” he told The Washington Post on Tuesday. "You look at our air and our water and it’s right now at a record clean."
"But when you look at China and you look at parts of Asia and you look at South America, and when you look at many other places in this world, including Russia, including many other places, the air is incredibly dirty, and when you’re talking about an atmosphere, oceans are very small,” he continued.
“And it blows over and it sails over. I mean we take thousands of tons of garbage off our beaches all the time that comes over from Asia," President Trump said. "It just flows right down the Pacific. It flows and we say, ‘Where does this come from?’ And it takes many people, to start off with.”
If that seems like word salad, well, it's not just you. And climate experts are pushing back hard against the president's comments. When asked for comment by the Washington Post, climate expert and Texas A&M University Professor Andrew Dessler called the comments "idiotic" (yikes!), asking "How can one possibly respond to this?”
And Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at Texas Tech University, told the Washington Post "Facts aren’t something we need to believe to make them true — we treat them as optional at our peril. And if we’re the president of the United States, we do so at the peril of not just ourselves but the hundreds of millions of people we’re responsible for.”
If you're on this site, you probably don't need us to tell you that climate change is real and, yes, it's driven by human activity. But, unfortunately, that doesn't always translate to action that would curb emissions. So if you're worried about climate change, speak up! Use our handy guide to contact your representatives in government about climate change and make your voice heard.
- U.S. Global Change Research Program: Fourth National Climate Assessment
- HuffPost: Federal Climate Report Predicts At Least 3 Degrees Of Warming By 2100
- GreenFacts: Impacts of a 4°C global warming
- The Guardian: The three-degree world: the cities that will be drowned by global warming
- Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-on-climate-change-people-like-myself-we-have-very-high-levels-of-intelligence-but-were-not-necessarily-such-believers/2018/11/27/722f0184-f27e-11e8-aeea-b85fd44449f5_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.811fff7e7616
About the Author
Sylvie Tremblay holds a Master of Science in molecular and cellular biology and has years of experience as a cancer researcher and neuroscientist. Before launching her writing business, she worked as a TA and tutored students in biology, chemistry, math and physics.