The following article by David Suzuki (with contributions by Senior Editor Ian Hanington) is entitled “Welcome to an Extreme Warming World”. It has been posted on the David Suzuki Foundation. “Even though many world leaders recognize the problem, the recent G-7 agreement to decarbonize our energy by the end of the century is a horrifying joke,” observes Suzuki. (Rolly Montpellier ~ Editor for BoomerWarrior).
Global Warming on Steroids
My hometown, Vancouver, is in a rainforest, so we celebrate sunny days. People I talk to are enjoying the recent warm, dry weather, but they invariably add, “This isn’t normal” — especially with all the smoke from nearby forest fires.
With no mountain snowpack and almost no spring rain, rivers, creeks and reservoirs are at levels typically not seen until fall. Parks are brown. Blueberries, strawberries and other crops have arrived weeks earlier than usual. Wildfires are burning here and throughout Western Canada. Meanwhile, normally dry Kamloops has had record flooding, as has Toronto. Manitoba has been hit with several tornadoes and golf-ball-sized hail.
Unusual weather is everywhere. California is in its fourth year of severe drought. Temperatures in Spain, Portugal, India and Pakistan have reached record levels, sparking wildfires and causing thousands of deaths and heat-related ailments. Heavy rains, flooding and an unusually high number of tornadoes have caused extensive damage and loss of life in Texas, Oklahoma and Mexico.
The likely causes are complex: a stuck jet stream, the Pacific El Niño, natural variation and climate change. Even though it’s difficult to link all events directly to global warming, climate scientists have warned for years that we can expect these kinds of extremes to continue and worsen as the world warms. Some hypothesize that the strange behaviours of this year’s jet stream and El Niño are related to climate change, with shrinking Arctic sea ice affecting the former.
Several recent studies indicate a clear connection between increasing extreme weather and climate change. One, by climatologists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado, looked at rising global atmospheric and sea-surface temperatures, which have increased water vapour in the atmosphere by about five per cent since the 1950s. According to the paper, published in Nature Climate Change, “This has fuelled larger storms, and in the case of hurricanes and typhoons, ones that ride atop oceans that are 19 centimetres higher than they were in the early 1900s. That sea-level rise increases the height of waves and tidal surges as storms make landfall.”
A Stanford University study found, “accumulation of heat in the atmosphere can account for much of the increase in extreme high temperatures, as well as an average decrease in cold extremes, across parts of North America, Europe and Asia,” but also concluded the influence of human activity on atmospheric circulation, another factor in climate change, is not well understood.
Earth is clearly experiencing more frequent extreme weather than in the past, and we can expect it to get worse as we burn more coal, oil and gas and pump more carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. This can have profound and costly impacts on everything from agriculture to infrastructure, not to mention human health and life.
As Pope Francis pointed out, climate change and social justice are intricately connected: “The human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together; we cannot adequately combat environmental degradation unless we attend to causes related to human and social degradation.”
That’s why so many people from Canada and around the world are calling for action as government leaders prepare for December’s UN climate summit in Paris: religious leaders including Pope Francis and the Dalai Lama; global organizations like the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, International Energy Agency and World Health Organization; businesses from Microsoft to Ikea to General Motors; and millions of people like those who marched for “Jobs, Justice and the Climate” in Toronto on July 5. All know the future of humanity depends on rapidly shifting the way we obtain and use energy.
Even though many world leaders recognize the problem, the recent G-7 agreement to decarbonize our energy by the end of the century is a horrifying joke. None of today’s politicians making the commitment will be alive to bear the responsibility for achieving the target, and the time frame doesn’t address the urgent need to begin huge reductions in fossil fuel use immediately.
Governments at the provincial, state and municipal levels have led the way in finding solutions. Now it’s time for national leaders to finally demonstrate real courage and foresight as they gear up for the Paris summit later this year.
Rolly Montpellier is the Founder and Managing Editor of BoomerWarrior.Org. He’s a Climate Reality leader, a blogger and a Climate Activist. Rolly has been published widely – Toronto Star, The Hill Times, Kingston Whig, the PEN, UnpublishedOttawa, Climate Change Guide, World Daily, Examiner, The Canadian, 350Ottawa, ClimateMama, MyEarth360, GreenDivas, The Elephant, Countercurrents, County Weekly News.
He’s a member of Climate Reality Canada, Citizens’ Climate Lobby (Ottawa) and 350.Org (Ottawa). You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin.
I must commend you, Rollie, and others as well in this blog, notably Colette, for tolerating my dissension. I am sure that all of you disagree, totally, with the thought that human-induced global warming is not real, as demonstrated by an earth’s history of naturally occurring events. All of that is fair, but I do ask that you all at least give the other side a listen. As Colette will tell you the scientific approach, the objective scientific approach, is based on getting all the evidence, both supporting and opposed to one’s ideas before taking a position. In that spirit I am enclosing a link to a talk given recently by Dr. Carl-Otto Weiss, a physicist.
PS I am NOT a physicist, but I understood it, to my own surprise
Joe – you sound like a reasonable guy, for a denier that is. But frankly, the situation the global community faces is beyond further debate. The debate is over. The planet has already warmed one degree since the industrial revolution. There’s already enough carbon in the atmosphere to bring us to 2 degrees even if we could stop emitting carbon right now, today. And we can’t of course do that.
Further debate and baby steps like the ones being anticipated on the Road to Paris will seal the fate of my grandchildren, and if not them, their own children. They will be left with a world which will be heading to 3-6 degrees warmer. A truly unlivable world.
Sorry for my impatience.
Well Paris “might” be a beginning, but from there the changes in our lifeways will have to be massive. If governments are going to get with it, and if that is suppose to be a road to restoration, then we the people will have been just as involved if not more if it has been successful. See I worry that we rely too much on governments and big business to get the job done. In my opinion, they are actually a small part of what is needed to secure our future, the real needs are embedded in our life styles, ie changing those life styles by becoming about 80% less consumptive, literally. It really boils down to that. It isn’t about adding something to the mix, it’s about taking much of what’s in it away.
I see what you are saying Danny. It does make sense to take all the bad things out of the equation and try to return to a less consumptive world. There are lots of things that people can forgo, but it takes big commitments and time… Time for walking instead of driving, time for recycling instead of tossing everything in one big bin, time for doing anything by hand that we use an electric powered substitute tool for currently. It isn’t always easy for people to give up what they consider to be essentials in life rather than luxuries. The big key to finding a good balance in all of that, is to incentivise people.
All items for recycling could best be done in community recycle centres (next to big supermarkets would be best – so the recycle stuff can be dropped off on the way to the weekly shop). All recycle items would be collected in clear bags for visual inspection, weighed and a nominal fee by weight paid out – either in cash, or if the supermarket runs them, in store coupons.
Walk instead of Drive:
So many car journeys are done out of convenience that people use them just to go a few feet down the street rather than walk. All supermarkets, restaurants, businesses, should have parking metres and if you are shopping legitimately, you will receive a code at the checkout for free parking. If you only parked because you want to see a friend, then you will have to pay. This system is in operation in much of Europe and it does cut out lots of unnessesary car journeys.
Doing things by hand:
I think lots of people are beginning to realise that doing something with a sharp knife, is better than getting the electric food processor out. But there are other things too…
My sister saves on her electric kettle by pouring surplus heated water into a Thermos flask, for use later (rather than wastefully allowing it to go cold again).
Hand washing is easy for underwear, small t-shirts, socks and small things – we can cut a whole washload a week in the washing machine. Hang it outside in the sunshine to dry.
The obvious incentive here is to save on energy bills
These are only suggestions, but you see my drift – people have to know that all these things will save them money – a personal gratification in their wallet as well as helping the environment.
Of course there are a lot of personal choices we can all make to move to a sustainable world. But what is really needed are massive government interventions seen only in wartime mobilization. This is not a problem that can be solved with a nickel and dime approach (Canadian currency). Solutions required are of a magnitude that only national campaigns involving incentives, regulations, fines for non-compliance, education, rationing. This is where we are heading.
Yes Rollie, the debate is no longer of worth. If we do not affect change, the world is cooked literally, and our children have no chance. Now how does that trip to Europe sound?
Barb – Sorry I missed your comment of over one week ago.
Yes, we are way past the debate stage. The only trip to Europe I will contemplate is to the Paris 2015 COP21 conference. But that will depend on what happens in New York and Washington this fall in terms of climate action.
I believe Rolly you are talking about infrastructure. But if not, that’s where I see the government getting involved, but in reality the real work done will be by the people. And the incentive might be income, but it may not, it may just come from wanting to survive. They’ll be a time when the big word around town is adaptation, and not just for the developing world, but all of the world. That time will most likely come on quicker than we think, like it usually does with climate change it seems. There will likely be a shock and huge overlap in adjustment, money could become meaningless and “let’s just get the job done” might be a good days pay instead. That’s cuz the job ahead is massive. Take all the big projects of history from the Great China Wall to the Panama Canal and throw them all in one pot and maybe you got a start on what is needed to adapt to climate change at a global level. So yeah, I think government will definitely be involved, but who’s gonna do the work? You and me.
Danny – I agree that the time will come when some communities, cities, nations will undertake massive adaptation projects. The magnitude of adaptation required will make projects like the China Wall and the Panana Canal seem like children’s play. I’m paraphrasing here but someone said that we know there are some things we don’t know. But there’s things we don’t even know we don’t know. That will be the category of adaptation projects we will need to deal with. Prepare for a rough ride.
Please see the Nile River Course in Egypt — this shows the importance of natural variability in rainfall. With the population growth and urbanization, destruction of forests are taking place. Modern forest fires are associated with human activities. In my state at a pilgrim town “TIRUMALA” the forests are famous for sandal wood. These forests are not only cut for profit but also they are put on fire for land grabbing for real estate business. This is common in India and elsewhere. These are nothing to do with global warming.
Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy
Thank you for your comment.
I agree that deforestation is a global threat that does not get adequate coverage in the media. The lack of foresight is staggering. Deforestation reduces the carbon recapture at a time when we are increasing GHG emissions. We need more forests, not less.
re: “…G-7 agreement to decarbonize our energy by the end of the century is a horrifying joke,” observes Suzuki.”
One solution to that is to drop Canada from the G7/G8 groups. We are has-beens, being overtaken in many categories by other countries, many of which were third world not so long ago. I am sure we would have had a different outcome from the last summit.
(From a proud Canadian)
David – welcome to BoomerWarrior and thank you for the comments.
I too am a proud Canadian or shall I say, used to be a proud Canadian. Our Prime Minister is more focused on foreign policy and terrorism than the good of the country and will go down in history as Canada’s worst Prime Minister. It will take decades to restore Canada’s reputation internationally. The removal of Canada from the G7/G8G20 may be exactly what is needed to convince Harper supporters that their man is seriously flawed.