Climate change is like a tsunami — you can’t feel it or see it until it’s too late. As they intensify, both remain hidden; the tsunami by the waves and climate change by the weather. A single thermometer cannot detect climate change — it only measures the weather from day to day. Climate change is measured in fractions of a degree per decade. Scientists pour over millions of temperature readings gathered over a century or more from thousands of thermometers positioned around the world. Once scientists factor out the variability of weather, only then can we “see” climate change.
Scientists have seen the tsunami and it’s getting stronger! Over the last 100 years, the earth has warmed at the rate of 0.07 degrees celsius per decade. Over the last 40 years, the rate has doubled to 0.15 degrees per decade. Twenty-five thousand years ago, when the earth emerged from the last ice age, the earth warmed at 0.005 degrees per decade. Today’s warming is 30 times stronger than at anytime during the last half million years.
There’s noting natural about this warming. Mankind has done what nature over the previous half million years could not do — drive atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations above 280 parts per million. In the 15,000 years it took the earth to transition from the last ice age to the interglacial period we enjoy today, CO2 concentrations increased at the rate of 0.06 ppm per decade. In the last 100 years, mankind has driven CO2 levels to nearly 400 ppm; and, today’s rate is 20 ppm per decade — a whopping 300 percent increase over earth’s natural cycle!
The tsunami is coming. The only way out is to stop burning coal and oil, boost energy efficiency efforts and develop more renewable resources. It can be done but it must start now.