Is Our Planet Getting Cooked?

Nov 11, 2015 By Anita R
Anita R's picture

It is official! 2015 will be the warmest on record since temperature record-keeping began in 1850.

Last week, the United Kingdom's Met Office released their findings that showed average surface global temperatures had exceeded more than one degree Celsius. The amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in our atmosphere will also for the first time, exceed 400 parts per million in 2015. 

Climatologists are very concerned at the speed of global warming. They had targeted a one degree Celsius rise in temperatures only by the year 2020.  It puts the world at the halfway mark to the internationally agreed warming target, of two degrees Celsius a lot earlier than expected. 

Why Is A 2 Degree Celsius Rise Concerning?

Temperature increase can cause glacier melt and rise in sea levels. Its effect can be catastrophic as we already see flooding in low-lying and island nations.

Global warming also has consequences for food and water security, infrastructure, ecosystems, health and can cause frequent and intense extreme weather. 

A two-degree rise by the year 2100 seemed a realistic target as it would give us time to make adjustments to cool our planet. But the speed of temperature rise could mean rethinking our strategies - quickly. Meanwhile. rising sea levels could soon put heavily populated cities such as New York, Calcutta, and Shanghai at high risk.

Greenhouse Gases - The Threat

According to the UK MET office, the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere is responsible for 85% of the temperature increase (see notes). CO2 gets released into the atmosphere when we burn fossil fuels to run our industries, cars, and vehicles.

Thankfully, half the CO2 that we emit is absorbed by plants, trees, land, and the oceans. The unabsorbed gases are still sufficiently large to cause concern. Meanwhile, we are cutting down precious forests that absorb excess carbon from the atmosphere. 

Reducing global emissions is not an easy task. It will require a coordinated effort from all nations. Developed nations such as USA, Germany, and Australia will have to pledge emission cuts by as much as 25-40%. Countries such as India and China that have a large population and growing industry, have to become efficient so that they leave a smaller greenhouse gas footprint. Everybody must take a pledge and stick to it.

As world leaders gather in Paris to debate the state of earth's climate, in early December, global warming will be the burning issue. For the sake of our planet, it is important that nations put politics aside and make realistic promises to ensure our planet stays hospitable for future generations.  

Courtesy: BBC. Others