“Why is it . . . that in this world there are men [and women] whose hearts have been so numbed, whose sentiments of honor and delicacy have been so deadened, that one sees them pleased and amused by what degrades and soils them?” – Marquis de Sade
A recently released draft of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Synthesis Report concluded that anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) is fully upon us, will dramatically worsen unless something is done immediately – and that something is on the level of a wartime response. The report noted that ACD is “severe … pervasive … irreversible.”
The authors of the draft report used the word “risk” 351 times, “vulnerable” or “vulnerability” 61 times, and “irreversible” 48 times, and added: “The report found that companies and governments had identified reserves of these [fossil] fuels at least four times larger than could safely be burned if global warming is to be kept to a tolerable level.”
The world is already on track to be at least 4 degrees Celsius warmer before the end of the century due to missed carbon targets, while incredibly, worry over short-term costs of investments to address the risks resulting from runaway ACD continues to paralyze any meaningful action toward its mitigation.
As though that’s not enough bad news, the World Meteorological Organization announced in early September that global atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations reached record levels in 2013, and are rising at their fastest rate since 1984.
The UN also announced that the usual “cushions” against ACD, like forests and oceans absorbing carbon dioxide, are less effective at doing so as carbon dioxide levels continue to ramp up.
Recently, a team of scientists completed a series of flights over California to develop new methods of detecting and measuring carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere for NASA. “Our understanding of methane emissions from many important sources remains poor,” the principal investigator on the study, Ira Leifer, told Truthout: “For example, a recent review of many field studies over the last decade concluded that industrial fossil fuel emissions – the primary methane source – had been underestimated by a factor of approximately two.”
Methane, a potent greenhouse gas that the IPCC expects will have a greater overall impact in the near term on the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, is approximately 100 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. Surprisingly, with all the talk of carbon dioxide, most mainstream environmentalists are barely addressing the impact of methane on ACD.
A recently released study based on detailed satellite imagery shows that the world’s two largest ice sheets, Greenland and the West Antarctic, are now melting at the fastest rates ever recorded. This ice sheet loss has more than doubled in the last five years. By 2100, ice melt from Antarctica alone will most likely raise sea levels more than 14 inches.
Another study published in the journal Science shows that in the last 20 years, human-caused climate change has become the primary driver of glacial melt.
Overall warming trends continue, as carbon dioxide emissions continue to rise at ever-increasing levels. Globally, May 2014 was the warmest May since global temperature records began in the 1800s. Annually, 2013 tied 2003 as the fourth warmest year globally since 1880.
The truth is undeniable: As the World Health Organization warned recently, ACD is the single greatest threat to human health this century.
As we review studies, reports and planetary indicators of ACD progression over the last month, all signs point toward an accelerating escalation of catastrophic impacts.