I have been reading The Conversation recently – it is an Australian project where journalists team up with academics, scientists and experts from universities to share their research and ideas in a way that is (hopefully) accessible to the public. It is a fascinating read – although, given the recent death threats to climate scientists in Australia – it probably has some way to go before it reaches its goal of bringing university research and debate into the media mainstream.
No issue needs science and research to be bought accessibly into the mainstream more than climate change. And the conversation’s section on climate change is always valuable contribution.
Last week it published ‘Very worried’ about escalating emissions? You should be‘ where the authors, Professor John Abraham and Dana Nuccitelli, covered the International Energy Agency’s estimates of global carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions, showing that between 2003 and 2008, emissions had been rising at a rate faster than the IPCC worst case scenario.
However, the global recession slowed the emissions growth considerably. In fact, they actually declined slightly from 29.4 billion tons (gigatons, or Gt) CO₂ in 2008, to 29 Gt in 2009.
However, despite the slow global economic recovery, 2010 saw the largest single year increase in global human CO₂ emissions from energy (fossil fuels). They grew a whopping 1.6 Gt from 2009, to 30.6 Gt. The previous record annual increase was 1.2 Gt from 2003 to 2004.
Hmm. A massive economic catastrophe and it still only inhibits the growth in emissions for a single year. Which leads us to this chart which Professor Abraham provides us from the UK Met Office:
Professor Abraham concludes by noting:
Right now we’re on track with the orange and red arrows in Figure 4. If we continue with this business-as-usual high emissions path, the consequences could be dire.
Some of the impacts listed in the IPCC report for global warming of 3–4°C above pre-industrial levels include:
- hundreds of millions of people exposed to increased water stress
- 30–40% of species at risk of extinction around the globe
- about 30% of global coastal wetlands lost
- increased damage from floods and storms
- widespread coral mortality
- the biosphere – soils, plants etc – stops absorbing carbon and starts releasing it
- reduced cereal production
- increased death and illness from heat waves, floods and droughts.