“The Blue Marble” — A photo of the Earth taken by the crew of Apollo 17, the last manned mission to the moon. And the last photo of the whole planet taken by a human being. It is also one of the most reproduced images in human history, and I just reproduced it again!
This is us, our planet, Earth. It’s all we have. If we destroy this planet, or I should say, if we continue to destroy this planet, we will cause our own extinction. This isn’t a maybe, it’s a fact.
We — humans — release 110 million tons of heat-absorbing, human-caused pollution into our atmosphere EVERY DAY. This pollution is causing more of the natural IR radiation from the Sun to stay within our atmosphere, making the planet much hotter than it use to be. This heat, or energy, is equivalent to 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs exploding every single day.
Sixteen of the seventeen hottest years on record have happened since 2001. Each year sets a new record for the hottest year on record. 2017 promises to be the next hottest year on record. These records are slowly but surely making parts of planet inhabitable.
DYK, on May 19th, 2016 India set a temperature record when it reached 51C (123.8F). On the same day in Pakistan reached 51.5C (124.7F).
Where does most of this extra heat go? It doesn’t stay in the atmosphere, it’s in the ocean. And it’s this increased ocean temperature that causes extreme weather events, like Hurricane Sandy. Sandy passed over parts of the ocean that were 9C hotter than normal.
Unfortunately, warmer air is capable of holding more moisture (than cold air). It’s a vicious cycle. we pollute, the atmosphere traps more heat, that heat increases the temperature of the oceans, the warmer air absorbs more moisture (from the ocean), and we see extreme weather events. This additional absorbed water vapour in the air has increased the amount of precipitation that falls when an extreme weather event occurs. This excessive amount of water causes floods, like the one we saw in Calgary.
But, the air doesn’t just pull moisture from the oceans (and other bodies of water), it absorbs moisture from the soil. The soil gets drier and the land experiences a drought, which in turn can cause famine. Water starts to disappear from rivers and lakes, drying up agricultural lands around the world. And because the increased heat in the air is decreasing snow packs, there is less water to refill our lakes and rivers.
The decrease of water in the soil also causes extremely dry conditions in our forests. This makes the forests more susceptible to wildfires caused by both natural events (like lightning) and human-caused events (cigarettes, campfires, ATVs, etc.). [Although we should note that the lighting is getting worse because of the increase in extreme weather events. So it could be argued that the lighting is also human-caused.] Wildfire seasons around the world have been extended by an average of 105 days per year. Alberta saw this first hand in 2016 with the wildfire in Fort McMurray.
What else does climate change do? It decreases the world’s food supply. It increases the use of water worldwide (which is becoming more limited). And it causes all sorts of health problems like infectious diseases (in humans, plants, and animals).
Mark Carney, the current Governor of the Bank of England, and previous head of the Bank of Canada, has said: “The vast majority of [carbon] reserves are unburnable.” Why? Because burning more than a small amount of the oil still in the ground will raise the average Earth temperature by more than 2C. And that is disastrous!
THIS is why I have considered myself an environmentalist for years. And this is why I have wanted to attend a Climate Reality Leadership Corps training conference for years. And this is why I finally signed up to attend this conference. Because I want to learn how to convince people that we need to DO something. Status quo is NOT enough.