Records aplenty are being broken. Unfortunately they're for atmospheric concentrations of CO2, methane and nitrous oxide. The World Meteorological Organization reports there's no sign of a reversal of this trend and the window for preventing catastrophic climate change is now nearly closed.
“The last time the Earth experienced a comparable concentration of CO2 was 3-5m years ago, when the temperature was 2-3C warmer and sea level was 10-20 metres higher than now,” said the WMO secretary general, Petteri Taalas.
“The science is clear. Without rapid cuts in CO2 and other greenhouse gases, climate change will have increasingly destructive and irreversible impacts on life on Earth. The window of opportunity for action is almost closed.”Since the Industrial Revolution, atmospheric CO2 levels have increased by a factor of 2.5. Methane is up 3.5 times and nitrous oxide levels have doubled.
This is dreary stuff to read, week in and week out, isn't it? But look on the bright side. The really horrific stuff, the catastrophic impacts, most of that will land in your grandkids' laps long after you've retired for the eternal dirt nap. Oh, sure, we'll see more wildfires, more droughts, more floods, more severe storm events but they'll pale compared to what the next few generations will endure. Besides there's a whole world out there just waiting for us to flood their markets with ultra-high carbon bitumen, don't you know?
Prof Corinne Le Quéré, of the University of East Anglia, said she was not surprised by the new record levels of greenhouse gases. “But I am very concerned that all three gases most responsible for climate change are rising upwards unabated. It seems the urgency and extent of the actions needed to address climate change have not sunk in.
“Low-carbon technologies like wind, solar, and electric transport need to become mainstream, with old-fashioned polluting fossils pushed out rapidly.”Yet the UN's climate body finds that, while national governments have largely failed their people and the global community, much good work has been done by municipalities, regional governments and some state/provinces.
Canada, of course, imagines itself a Green Petro-State, a delusion akin to being a "little bit pregnant." For a country that seemingly can't agree on anything, when it comes to pushing bitumen offshore the biggest contest between the Tories and the Liberals is which one can fill the most supertankers. Classy, eh?
- the photo is of a thermal-electric (coal) power plant in Poland, the coal-friendly country that will host this year's UN climate summit.
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