2020 - Climate change

Climate Change: History, Scenario and The Future of our Planet

There has been consistent data proving that global warming is a bitter reality in our lives, and that loosening emission controls may bring irreversible consequences to our planet.

There’s still a dark rhetoric regarding climate change, driven by political agendas and mere intuition, two elements that could not be farthest from scientific procedures. But metrics on the planet’s situation are consistent: there are decades worth of data concerning air quality, and, above all, what the impacts of social evolution on climate are.

The science is solid on this: 97% of the world’s scientists, according to NASA, agree on the fact that there has been significant climate change in our planet and that us, humans, are to blame for it. The other 3%, who are mainly deniers of such claims (many of them relying on support of far-right leaders, such as the presidents of the United States and Brazil), are financed by, or usually connected to, the fossil fuel industry, mining and aviation companies or, are lobbying for these sectors.

It is paramount to understand, however, that there can’t be shallow and unfounded conclusions on this matter, since the scientific community plays an extremely defining role fighting climate change — completely backed up by evidence, tests and data. Several US bureaus responsible for the country’s strategy and defense, such as the Army, the EPA and NASA already consider climate change to be anthropogenic (caused by us, human beings) for over 30 years — despite the anti environmentalist rhetoric of the current leader.

Global warming: from Ancient History to the Industrial Revolution

The Earth has always displayed an oscillation of CO2 levels, between 100 and 300 ppm — parts per million. Our planet, however, was always able to self-regulate (while there was no interference from humanity), so these levels, at least for the past 8 million years, have fluctuated through a relatively simple process . Higher levels of CO2, like 300ppm, have led trees to capture this extra CO2 for photosynthesis, absorbing this gas from the atmosphere as part of its process to generate energy. Thus, Earth has been going through the cycle for millions of years:

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Nonetheless, everything began to change when the Industrial Revolution begun in the XVIII Century.

Industrialization throughout the world expanded rapidly and brought serious consequences to the environment. We had never reached such alarming CO2 levels in our atmosphere before. Our first ancestors appeared around 3 million years ago, when the concentration of carbon dioxide in our planet oscillated between 100ppm and 300ppm. In 2020, CO2 levels are expected to reach 417ppm, the highest level we've seen in millions of years.

This significant raise brings on two major consequences. First of all, a worsening of the Greenhouse Effect. With lower CO2 concentration, sunlight is reflected by the Earth and dissipates in the universe. With high levels of CO2, it becomes much harder for light — as well as heat — to dissipate, thus remaining concentrated right here on Earth. And that has brought a worrisome second issue: accelerated increase of global temperature.

A good analogy here is the human body. If we don’t have a fever, our body remains at a constant temperature of 36 degrees Celsius (or, 96.8 degrees Fahrenheit), meaning that our body is perfectly regulated and there are no problems. But when our temperature increases a few degrees, that is telling us that something is wrong and we need to see a doctor. It’s pretty much the same with our planet. In the past 10,000 years prior to the Industrial Revolution, the Earth’s temperature did not even go up one degree centigrade. In the last 300 years, temperature has already risen by more than one degree, which means that we’ve accomplished in 300 years what nature couldn’t in 10,000.

It is important to highlight that temperature increases mentioned above are global averages. In tropical countries the variation is not as volatile as it is in other regions, such as Northern Europe, Southern Argentina or South Africa. These higher latitude, temperate zones may be much more affected to the point that, whilst global average temperature can be of two or three degrees higher, in these places it could reach up to 15 degrees. A typical summer day which historically would register 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) could be as hot as 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit). Predictions state that around the year 2080 the tropical regions will become inhabitable and migratory impacts could be just as devastating, forcing the population in those mild areas to become highly concentrated.

What is the expected scenario?

There is a high probability that life on our planet would become as catastrophic as in a dystopian Hollywood movie. Some scientists claim that the temperature rise would cause irreversible effects in which the self-regulatory system of our planet would no longer function properly.

The side effects brought on by the constant increase in temperatures and the Greenhouse Effect could also raise ocean temperatures, especially due to the melting of polar ice caps. Cities on the shore, as well as entire groups of islands, could just vanish in the next 60 years. Food production would suffer major drops, from 30% to 50%. We could reach a point in which CO2 concentration could be as high as 600ppm by 2080 (or twice the amount our planet is used to managing ).

Does it mean that we are doomed as human beings? Well, yes and no. Although predictions are dire, we must understand that we have time to react. If governments abide by what specialists say about the environment, if industries become more aware and reduce their copious levels of CO2 emissions, if all societies unite in one single preservation movement, then there could be a chance for all of us. It is up to us to take the first step.