“In Order to Muster the Political Will Necessary for Change We Have to Realize How Much Is At Stake” (Al Gore, Climate Reality Leadership Corps, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil).
…So what’s at stake? Well, a lot actually. Here’s a brief depiction.
1: Global warming causes the trapping of heat energy equivalent to 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs exploding every day for an entire year.
Yes, you read that correctly. Four hundred thousand explosions per day. And if that doesn’t worry you, consider the fact that emissions are increasing at a rate of 110 million tons per day.
2: 90% of this trapped heat goes into the ocean.
This is important for two reasons. First, rising sea levels cause massive displacement. Historically, sea level escalation has been caused by thermal expansion rather than thawing glaciers. This is changing. For starters, Antarctica and Greenland are melting. Think about what happens when you place an ice cube into a glass of water. The water rises instantaneously. Now magnify that by 10,000 percent (probably more) and that’s approximately what’s occurring in our oceans.
Second, the rising sea is vital to the following debate: some deniers assert that, in the last decade, the global temperature has actually not risen at all. This is nearsighted. There exists a difference between surface temperature measurement and the overall measurement of heat absorption. If 90% of trapped heat is going into the ocean, this means only 10% of heat is affecting the land surface temperature. The integration of ocean layers with atmospheric heat is quantifiable and scientists have measured both warmer water and rising sea levels.
But haven’t we seen unique weather effects before…?
Yes of course, but not to this magnitude. Statistically speaking, 2013 was the 37th consecutive year with a global temperature above the 20th century average. Similarly, last month was the 356th consecutive month with a global temperature above the 20th century average.
4: There is a colossal discrepancy between climate impacts felt by wealthy countries and the detrimental consequences that developing counties might not have the ability to weather.
This is tremendously important to understand. There are millions of people in the developing world who feel the effects of climate crisis every single day. Admittedly, the magnitude of this notion was lost on me until fairly recently.
The effects are severe.
Here is just one example. When extreme weather destroys infrastructure in the developed world, we simply rebuild. In stark contrast, the developing world cannot afford to rebuild. When infrastructure (including the homes of many) is destroyed in the developing world, it may be gone forever.
It should be noted – it is not the case that the developed world is causing global warming to the detriment of their less-fortunate counterparts. In fact, the developed world is actually thought to be emitting less carbon than developing nations. Origin is of less importance. What’s important is that the effects of climate change are felt so severely, almost unimaginably, by poorer nations.
5: Climate change is causing harmful flooding and droughts.
What?! How can climate change simultaneously impact both floods and droughts?
As temperatures increase, oceans emit water vapor into the air. Large volumes of water vapor equates to increased downpours. Increased downpours = floods. Floods = displacement. A lesser-known fact is that in-between these massive downpours, the same warm air that evaporates water from the ocean absconds moisture from the soil. Droughts are no joke. Over 140 cities in Brazil were forced to ration water this past February. In 1Q, this same drought was responsible for a $4.3 billion hit to Brazilian agriculture. Between 2006-2010, drought turned 60% of Syria’s fertile land into dessert and destroyed 80% of the country’s cattle. And, closer to home, 100% of California is in drought. There have been over 700 fires in the California region in 2014 alone. These are just a few examples of what’s happening on a global scale.
6: Crops are extremely sensitive to heat…and the effects are severe.
“It’s like farming in hell” – Fred Below, Planet Biologist, University of Illinois in Urbana
When climate crisis disrupts the food supply around the world, there are massive social consequences.
Just a few years ago, Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan ceased grain exports as a consequence of record high drought and fires. Subsequently, there were food riots in dozens of countries around the world.
And this brings us back to Point Number 4. The wealthy spend a trivial amount of total income on food. When the price of food rises, there might be a slight increased feeling of frustration when buying the Sunday groceries, but that’s about it. But, the lower class spends about 60% of their income on food. When food prices rise, people starve.
7: Insurance companies could quite feasibly be forced to rebuild their business models.
The chief mandate of insurance companies is to calculate and provide for the risk of loss. As of late, some scientists are predicting that weather events will reach a severity so excessive that some coastal areas are at risk of becoming uninsurable.
Where exactly this tipping point lies is uncertain, but the fact that it’s a consideration at all is alarming, to say the least.
…is happening more frequently than you could even imagine, and all around the world.
9. Climate crisis impacts military security.
In May of 2014, Mark Wright (Pentagon, US Department of Defense) stated this year: “For DoD [the U.S. Department of Defense], this is a mission reality, not a political debate. The scientific forecast is for more Arctic ice melt, more sea level rise, more intense storms, more flooding from storm surge, and more drought”.
You heard the man – climate change is mission critical. Arguably, it’s also a political debate, but that’s another issue. Climate crisis causes instability and intensifies conflicts. When nations are teetering on the edge of chaos, this puts direct pressure on military security.
10. We are seeing increased commitment towards alternative energy on behalf of companies.
An optimistic ending! The following beloved businesses use 100% renewable energy:
Staples, Kohls, SAP, Keurig, Unilever, Pearson, State Street, TD Bank North, Intel, DHL, & Motorola.
Where’s Apple? I know, I asked myself the same question, since they are building the world’s greenest building and all. In case you were wondering, Apple’s not far behind at 94% alternative energy.
The idea of grid parity is interesting. So much so, that I will expand on this topic in a separate post. Scientists have projected that, within six years, 82% of the world will live in regions where electricity from solar is cheaper than the average price from other sources.
Two thoughts. First and foremost – and my frequent readers likely know this by now – I am not belittling the importance of money. I love the stuff. That being said, massive profits can be made through alternative energy — in addition to investment beyond the scope of any form of energy at all. Second, climate changes may not affect the lifetime of any of my readers (and by the way, that’s not guaranteed), but I know that many of my readers are, like myself, part of Generation Y. What about our kids? Our grandkids?