Shifting Attitude Towards Climate Change
The earth’s temperature is not a static thing. It changes over time and can be measured by the effects of the cycle between glacial advance and retreat which cause sea levels to both rise and dip. Over the course of the last 650,000 years, there have been 7 such cycles, the most recent of which ended around 7,000 years ago and which spelled the beginning of a boom in human civilization. These fluctuations in global temperature are often quite minute and are thought to be an effect of subtle changes in the earth’s orbit around the sun. Unfortunately, these changes are no longer subtle and are instead marked by rapid and dramatic effects on the planet.
Immediate Impacts of Climate Change
While it’s impossible to attribute a single storm to climate change, one of the most noticeable impacts of climate change is the increasing frequency of extreme weather events around the world. A change in atmospheric composition and increased temperatures that affect atmospheric circulation are causing a more unstable atmosphere, which acts as the perfect breeding ground for extreme weather.
The most intuitive impact of climate change is the increasing frequency, longevity, and potency of heatwaves. In fact, studies have found that the 2010 heatwave in Russia would not have occurred without climate change, while more recently, 2018 saw record temperatures set around the world.
In Ottawa, the combined humidity level and temperature hit 47°C.
Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, recorded an all-time high of 40.5°C.
Breaking a record that stood for 79 years, the University of California recorded a temperature of 43.9°C.
Storms and Flooding
Ocean warming ramps up the power of coastal storms. So while we may not actually be seeing a greater amount of storms during the Atlantic Hurricane Season, we are seeing far more storms category 3 and above. To put it into perspective, 1967 saw one category 3 storm, one category 4 storm and one category 5. In 2017 we experienced six in category 3, four in category 4, and two category 5 storms.
As the atmosphere is now warmer it can also hold more moisture. This means that when storms do hit, they result in heavier rainfall, leading to flooding and consequential damage to agricultural and urban areas.
Following years of drought and record high temperatures, plant life in regions around the world and in particular in California has been left extremely dry. This makes forestry particularly vulnerable, with the smallest sparks capable of setting ablaze hundreds of acres.
According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, forest fires have occurred nearly four times as often lately, have burned more than six times the amount of land, and have lasted almost five times as long since 1986. This has been especially prevalent in the western United States where the average length of the wildfire season has increased from 5 to 7 months.
With such extreme weather conditions hitting countries all around the world, the effects on human safety almost go without saying. The 2018 Japan heatwave saw more than 22,000 people hospitalized. Hurricanes originating in the Atlantic killed over 3,000 people in 2017, and the CampFire blaze which hit Northern California in 2018 killed at least 88 people, destroyed over 7,100 homes and businesses and burned through over 100,000 acres of land.