We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors;
we borrow it from our children.
— Native American Proverb
March through June 2014 were the hottest on record globally, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency. In May – officially the hottest May on record globally – the average temperature of the planet was .74 degrees Celsius above the 20th century baseline, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The trend is clear: 2013 was the 37th consecutive year of above-average global temperatures, and since the Industrial Revolution began, the earth has been warmed by .85 degrees Celsius. Several scientific reports and climate modeling show that at current trajectories (business as usual), we will see at least a 6-degree Celsius increase by 2100.
In the last decade alone, record high temperatures across the United States have outnumbered record low temperatures two to one, and the trend is both continuing and escalating.
While a single extreme weather event is not proof of anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD), the increasing intensity and frequency of these events are. And recent months have seen many of these.
A record-breaking heat wave gripped India in June, as temperatures hovered at 46 degrees Celsius, sometimes reaching 48 degrees Celsius. Delhi’s 22 million residents experienced widespread blackouts and rioting, as the heat claimed hundreds of lives.
Also in June, Central Europe cooked in unseasonably extreme heat, with Berlin experiencing temperatures over 32 degrees Celsius, which is more than 12 degrees hotter than normal.
At the same time, at least four people died in Japan, and another 1,637 were hospitalized as temperatures reached nearly 38 degrees Celsius.
NASA is heightening its efforts to monitor ACD’s impacts on the planet; recently, it launched the first spacecraft dedicated solely to studying atmospheric carbon dioxide.
The spacecraft will have plenty to study, since earth’s current carbon dioxide concentration is now the longest ever in recorded history.
A recent report by the National Resource Defense Council warned that summers in the future are likely to bring increased suffering, with more poison ivy and biting insects, and decreasing quality of air and water.
As farmers struggle to cope with increasing demands for food as the global population continues to swell, they are moving towards growing crops designed to meet these needs as well as withstand more extreme climate conditions. However, a warning by an agricultural research group shows they may inadvertently be increasing global malnutrition by these efforts. “When I was young, we used to feed on amaranth vegetables, guava fruits, wild berries, jackfruits and many other crops that used to grow wild in our area. But today, all these crops are not easily available because people have cleared the fields to plant high yielding crops such as kales and cabbages which I am told have inferior nutritional values,” Denzel Niyirora, a primary school teacher in Kigali, said in the report.
The stunning desert landscape of Joshua Tree National Park is now in jeopardy, as Joshua trees are now beginning to die out due to ACD.
Another study, this one published in the journal Polar Biology, revealed that birds up on Alaska’s North Slope are nesting earlier in order to keep apace with earlier snowmelt.
Antarctic emperor penguin colonies could decline by more than half in under 100 years, according to a recent study – and another showed that at least two Antarctic penguin species are losing ground in their fight for survival amidst the increasing impacts of ACD, as the Antarctic Peninsula is one of the most rapidly warming regions on earth. The scientists who authored the report warned that these penguins’ fate is only one example of this type of impact from ACD on the planet’s species, and warned that they “expect many more will be identified as global warming proceeds and biodiversity declines.”