United Nations climatologists say it is “now or never” to halt catastrophic temperature rises and the collapse of climate systems on which our way of life depends. Reports of bomb-like blizzards and scorching droughts paint a terrifying picture of the possible reality of climate change. But are we really witnessing a degradation of time?
Unfortunately, the answer is “yes”. The weather is getting worse for people in the United States and around the world, Spencer Weart, historian and retired director of the Center for the History of Physics at the American Institute of Physics in College Park, Maryland, told LiveScience.
Climate is the average of weather conditions over time, and Earth has a long and dramatic history of natural climate change. The Triassic period (252 to 201 million years ago) may have ended with a million year old rain storm. And the dinosaur killer asteroid hitting Earth in the late Cretaceous (145-66 million years ago) plunged parts of the sky into cold darkness for years under dense clouds of ash and particles; then the Earth’s temperatures enriched for 100,000 years, due to the colossal amount of carbon dioxide the asteroid kicked up when it crashed into the Yucatán Peninsula; a massive asteroid strike is still technically a natural event, although sad for the dinosaurs.
Although major climate fluctuations are nothing new to our planet, they have been incredibly destructive in the past, and our current insatiable appetite for fossil fuels is triggering a rapid oscillation that could have disastrous consequences for humanity.
Related: Has the Earth ever been this hot?
Modern records reveal an unnatural nature global warming trend to take over the Earth’s climate in recent decades. By burning fossil fuels, humans send out heat carbon dioxide and others greenhouse gas in the atmosphere that increase global temperatures.
Experimental data and climate models suggest that this warming will affect the weather in various ways, making it hotter and colder, more extreme, more chaotic and, in a word, “worse”. For example, as the world warms, more water evaporates from the surface of dry areas and increases precipitation in wetlands, according to Weart. In other words, dry areas get drier and wet areas get wetter. More moisture in the atmosphere of a warming planet can also lead to heavier snowfall during the Winter.
Weart underlined the gravity of the North Atlantic hurricanes in the Caribbean and the United States in recent years, as well as hurricanes or tropical cyclones all over the world as examples of worsening weather conditions. “There is no doubt that everywhere hurricanes get worse,” he said.
We are not necessarily seeing an increase in the number of hurricanes, but the more violent ones are getting more violent. “What would have been a category 3 [hurricane] is a category 4, what would have been a category 4 is a Category 5“Weart said.
Category 5 includes strongest hurricanes, with winds of 156 mph (251 km/h) or more. There is no Category 6 hurricane because the Saffir-Simpson scale only deals with wind, and wind damage is about the same above 156 mph, although some scientists believe that the scale needs to be revised, Live Science previously reported.
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Meanwhile, record-breaking weather events, such as Japan’s 2018 heat wave that killed more than 1,000 people, are likely to become more frequent, Weart noted. For example, in a 2018 study published in the journal Atmosphere Science Letters Online (opens in a new tab) (SOLA), the researchers performed climate computer simulations and found that the heat wave could not have occurred without human-induced global warming. A 2020 study published in the journal Nature Communication (opens in a new tab) also found that heat waves are increasing around the world.
Also, although it seems counterintuitive, global warming could cause cold snaps. A 2021 study published in the journal Science (opens in a new tab) found a warming Arctic and disturbances from the swirling cold winds above it, called the polar vortex, are linked to more extreme winters in the northern hemisphere, including the United States, but climatologists are still debating this link, Nature reported (opens in a new tab).
Climate change may have the potential to disrupt weather systems to such an extent that the Earth turns into a chaotic world that can’t be fixed, Live Science previously reported. A 2022 study published on the prepublication database arXiv (opens in a new tab) found that if we don’t reduce our emissions, humans run the risk of seeing the Earth’s temperature fluctuate chaotically in ways that are impossible to predict.
So what are we doing to fight climate change and avoid a future filled with more terrible weather? Nations around the world have signed the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015 and agreed to keep warming preferably below 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius) and well below 3.6 F (2 C). But, in 2022, UN Secretary General António Guterres said during the Summit of Economists on Sustainability (opens in a new tab) that the 1.5 degree target was in “resuscitation” and with continued emissions, “we are sleepwalking to climate catastrophe”.
World leaders must ensure that global carbon dioxide emissions start falling by 2025 and are halved by 2030 if we are to stay within 1.5C of warming, according to the latest Panel. intergovernmental experts on climate change (IPCC) report (opens in a new tab) — likely the last IPCC report before irreversible climate breakdown becomes inevitable, Live Science previously reported.
“It’s as if we’ve suddenly become the protagonist of a science fiction movie: ‘Only you can save civilization from a global catastrophe,'” Weart said. “But it’s not science fiction.”
Originally posted on Live Science.