Although yesterday we were talking about how trees may actually bear higher concentrations of CO2, Australian scientists discovered that we’re pretty close to not being able to reverse global warming – and, yes, you can call that a WARNING.
Current estimates are saying that if we continue our polluting habits the way we’ve been doing so far, then by 2100 the average temperature will raise by 6 degrees Celsius, which means we’ll have little to no polar ice and the oceans will have risen by a lot.
“This is the critical decade. If we don’t get the curves turned around this decade we will cross those lines,” said Will Steffen, executive director of the Australian National University’s climate change institute, speaking at a conference in London.
However, despite all of these warnings from the scientific community, world’s two biggest polluters – the U.S. and China won’t set a deal on how they’ll control their emissions until 2015. As if that wasn’t enough, the future rules won’t be applied until 2020.
Steffen also said that if the global temperature rises another two degrees Celsius we’ll pass a “threshold beyond which the system shifts to a much hotter state.”
Ice sheets have already been damaged irreversibly. Only the Greenland ice sheet has lost 200 cubic kilometers a year since the 1990s, and the West Antarctic one has reduced in size considerably over the last decade. New worries go over the Siberian permafrost which has a lot of carbon stored within.
“There is about 1,600 billion tonnes of carbon there – about twice the amount in the atmosphere today – and the northern high latitudes are experiencing the most severe temperature change of any part of the planet,” Stefen said.
In a worst case scenario, 30 to 63 billion tons of carbon a year could be released by 2040, rising to 232 to 380 billion tons by 2100. This compares to around 10 billion tons of CO2 released by fossil fuel use each year.
Increased CO2 in the atmosphere has also turned oceans more acidic as they absorb it. In the past 200 years, ocean acidification has happened at a speed not seen for around 60 million years, said Carol Turley at Plymouth Marine Laboratory, quoted by Reuters.
Now, all of these calculations are more or less precise. As we said yesterday, the truth sits somewhere in between these two theories. One sure fact is that we’re already experiencing strange phenomena each year, from snows in California to hotter winters in Canada, or tornadoes in Europe.
Something’s really going on there – but I don’t think 2020 will be the last year when we’ll be able to fix anything. Everything in this world happens gradually. Only if things go totally wrong, events could slip on a logarithmic curve and then we’ll all be doomed.
But until then, we could each install our own rooftop solar panel, drive our own converted and cheap electric car, and by 2020 we’ll have helped the planet by a lot more than governments will ever be able to.
Let’s start doing good things today!