County Sustainability Group Dead Serious: Extreme Weather

Dead Serious: Extreme Weather

Ron Hart
June 2/11 

We need to have a serious discussion about climate change.

There is a broad and deep body of work pointing to a growing and long-lasting human influence on the climate system. Generation Hot, the generation of some two billion young people who have grown up under global warming, are fated to spend the rest of their lives confronting its mounting impacts.

The Pew Center of Global Climate Change warns that natural ecosystem processes such as carbon cycling and storage have been altered by climate change. The Alaskan tundra has switched from being a net sink to a net source of CO2. Like the tundra, boreal forests have become carbon sources because of reduced growth due to climate-mediated increases in water stress, pest outbreaks, and wildfires.

In the last 50 years, the oceans have absorbed 22 times as much heat as has the atmosphere. A warmer atmosphere also holds more water vapor. For each one degree centigrade it heats up, it holds seven more—seven percent more water vapor. The hydrological cycle, the earth's water cycle, has been dramatically changed.

In addition,
new climate research suggests that within the Northern Hemisphere loss of Arctic sea ice is disrupting the polar vortex, causing north-south jet streams to pull cold air into southern latitudes.

Welcome to extreme weather.

Behind our wild weather, the Earth's temperature is not only rising, it is rising at an accelerated rate. Columbia University's
Earth Policy Institute (EPI) reports: "...a rise of 2–3 degrees Celsius will make the earth as hot as it was 3 million years ago, when oceans were more than 25 meters (80 feet) higher than they are today. Subsequent research has projected an even larger rise—up to 7.4 degrees Celsius–-if the world continues to depend on a fossil-fuel-based energy system."

EPI also reports: ". ..a landmark 2009 study by a team of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology concluded that the effects of climate change will be twice as severe as those they projected as recently as six years prior. Instead of a likely global temperature rise of 2.4 degrees Celsius, they now see a rise exceeding 5 degrees."

Now consider

A Copenhagen conference backgrounder stated: “To hold the temperature rise to 2 degrees, the scientists note that CO2 emissions should be reduced by 60–80 percent immediately, but since this is not possible, they note that, ‘To limit the extent of the overshoot, emissions should peak in the near future.’ "


"Analysis by leading European research institutes show that if even if all of the promises made by all nations so far to reduce their carbon emissions were fully implemented, the world by the end of this century would be 3.5 to 4 degrees warmer. And promises are not outcomes."


“By 2055, climate change is likely to have warmed the world by a dangerous 4 °C unless we stop pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere the way we do now. This is the startling conclusion of a study by the UK Met Office, unveiled at a conference in Oxford this week....” (Sept. 2009) “The Met Office ran 17 different models with these feedbacks. All concluded a 4 °C world by 2055 was likely if emissions continue to rise. Even if we are lucky, we are still likely to hit 4 °C by 2070.”

And finally,

“Professor Kevin Anderson, director of Britain's Tyndall Centre for Climate Change, believes only around 10 per cent of the planet's population – around half a billion people – will survive if global temperatures rise by 4C....”

" ‘...I think it's extremely unlikely that we wouldn't have mass death at 4C. If you have got a population of nine billion by 2050 and you hit 4C, 5C or 6C, you might have half a billion people surviving.."

We simply must put climate change at the top of Canada's political agenda.

5000 Global thought leaders identified national leadership, international leadership, and public pressure for action as the three most important factors affecting progress on climate change. They concluded a carbon tax, either alone or in combination with cap-and-trade, is seen as an effective tool, whereas very few endorsed cap-and-trade alone.

Make your voice heard. It is
civilization itself that is at risk. Make a commitment to write one letter a month and demand action. To help you amplify your voice, the County Sustainability Group has posted links to important Canadian decision makers at  

—Ron Hart is a member of the County Sustainability Group