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Global temperature graph by NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

The Inconvenient Truth of Climate Change

Bomb Cyclones, atmospheric rivers, polar vortexes, jet stream wobbles, historic droughts impacting the world’s food production and safety, massive flooding, coastline sea level rise, a shift in the boundaries of tornado alley, and massive tornado outbreaks … the earth appears near a tipping point that climate watchers have been predicting for decades.

That tipping point isn’t just a warmer world — it now appears that it is also a more extreme and dangerous world.

Under the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, virtually every nation in the world agreed that we would “pursue efforts” to hold global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) by the mid-2030s. Scientists say that beyond that point basically the worst scenarios imagined are possible — extreme heat waves, flooding, increasingly violent weather, crop failures, starvation, and species extinction is not just possible — but likely.

To be honest, we’re not doing well. Since the beginning of the industrial age in the 1880s or so, the earth has warmed by 1.1 degrees Celsius, due say experts, to the burning of fossil fuels that are supercharging carbon emissions that are at the heart of climate change. We’re burning coal, oil, and natural gas at record rates, with counties like China and the United States leading the emissions glut and India coming up fast.

While naysayers continue to delude themselves that this is just simple weather variations, the people who know this stuff tell us otherwise.

Just considering recent climate facts isn’t merely sobering, it’s enough to make this journalist wonder in what kind of world my great-grandchildren will be forced to live. According to  NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the last eight years were the hottest on record.

While NASA ranks the years — this one hotter than that one, NOAA scientist Dr. Russell Vose, interviewed recently by The New York Times says the point is: each of the past four decades has been warmer than the one that preceded it. Overall, the world is 1.2 degrees Celsius (that’s 2.1 degrees Fahrenheit) hotter than it was in the second half of the 19th century.”

Europe, China, Australia, parts of Africa and southern South America, and North America — there is no part of this plant not being affected. Just in 2022, normally temperate European countries had their hottest summer on record seeing dangerously high temperatures: more than 109 degrees in Madrid, 104.4 degrees in London, 98.4 degrees in Sweden, Berlin topped 100 degrees and chilly Edinburgh hit 88 degrees.

The areas of the planet warming the fastest?

The arctic is warming four times faster than the rest of the globe; with the potential to unleash massive amounts of methane gases that have been trapped in permafrost for thousands of years. Higher altitude areas and species who live there are also at increased risk. As sea levels rise — and they are rising inch by inch — island nations are going to disappear.

The most recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an expert analysis group convened by the United Nations paints a grim future — that we won’t make that 1.5-degree Celsius cutoff point. To do that as a planet, we would have to slash greenhouse gases by half of our current output by the mid-2030s. Then by 2050, we have to stop adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

As a reader, before you click through to the next article — absorb this reality: according to the United Nations, “the world has less than 10 years to avert climate disaster.”

Humankind actually has had the goal explained to us, and we have been told that this global warming will stop once humans stop adding heat-trapping gases to the atmosphere. It’s known as reaching “net-“emissions. If we take those steps, we’ve got a chance not to tip our planet over that 1.5-degree threshold.

This latest report is the sixth landmark climate change report issued by the U.N. — each one compiled by hundreds of experts from all over the globe about what rising temperatures are doing to ecosystems and people. It’s not that we are not doing anything at all, it’s that we aren’t doing enough, fast enough.

Hoesung Lee, the chair of the climate panel put it this way.” The pace and scale of what has been done so far and current plans are insufficient to tackle climate change. We are walking when we should be sprinting.”

Whether the will exists in this county, this state, this nation, or around the globe to meet the 1.5-degree threshold — that is the priceless question that is posed to every single person from those in this county — and on this planet.

It isn’t impossible — and as Piers Forster, a University of Leeds Climate Scientist who presented one of the U.N. report makes quite clear, “It is up to humanity to determine what we end up with.”