A major roadblock in convincing some people about the reality of climate change and that it’s caused in large part by human activities, has been the lack of readable papers on the subject. Scientific papers tend to be written for other scientists and therefore are very difficult for non-scientists to understand. Thankfully, a more comprehensive paper has been released jointly by the US National Academy of Sciences and the U.K. Royal Society.
This paper confirms that unless we change our behavior soon, we are going to create a planet that is no longer able to support life as we know it. There will be survivors, make no mistake; every extinction level event in the past has left life on the planet. But the lifeforms that survive are never the same as those that came before it — we may even survive ourselves but not in our current numbers and we may no longer be the dominant life-form.
The paper answers, in plain language, such questions as, “Is the climate warming?”
[box type=”shadow”]”Yes. Earth’s average surface air temperature has increased by about 0.8 °C (1.4 °F) since 1900, with much of this increase taking place since the mid-1970s. A wide range of other observations (such as reduced Arctic sea ice extent and increased ocean heat content) and indications from the natural world (such as poleward shifts of temperature-sensitive species of fish, mammals, insects, etc.) together provide incontrovertible evidence of planetary-scale warming.”[/box]
This plain language approach and easy to understand charts show changes in ocean ice, snowfall, ocean heat content and sea level changes.
To understand what is contributing to climate change, it is necessary to look at not just one or two patterns but a whole group of patterns such as surface warming, temperature changes through the atmosphere, increases in ocean heat content, increases in atmospheric moisture, sea level rise, and increased melting of land and sea ice. The authors explain that these things taken all together are an indication that it is the increased level of CO2 in the atmosphere due to our activities that are contributing.
The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is balanced in nature, with no interference from us, as the gas is expelled into the atmosphere through such things as volcanic eruptions it is balanced by chemical weathering of rocks, just as the CO2 is constantly being exchanged by plants, animals, decomposition and the oceans to maintain a balance. What we humans have done to upset this balance is to extract stored CO2 in the form of fossil fuels and release it into the atmosphere.
The paper does not tell us what must be done, it only offers an explanation of what is happening and how it is happening, suggesting that there are several courses of action open to us and that it is up to us to decide. One thing is clear, if we choose to do nothing, this will be a very different world by the end of this century.
h/t: Think Progress