Surely you’ve heard of it: the United Nations are having a conference in Paris in December to talk about climate change. And hopefully make some decisions. Well, they need help because they are going in the right direction but far too slow.
What we need to know:
98% scientists agree and the IPCC reports are peer-reviewed and include “skeptics” point of view. The IPCC report “Climate Change 2013: Physical Science Basis” summarizes all data with a level of confidence (depending on amount and quality of data as well as degree of agreement) and a measure of probability (based on models results and expert judgement).
Therefore any data or projection that comes with a high confidence and a very likely probability has -virtually certainly- happened or is going to happen. This is what the report states:
Climate change IS happening
- Data collection around the world averages nearly 1°C increase in temperatures since 1870.
- Extreme temperatures, droughts, floods, storms, have doubled or tripled since 1880.
- Sea levels have risen 250mm since 1880
- Glaciers have lost an average of 14 meters depth since 1950, particularly since 2004.
- Wildlife has declined and species have migrated. Biodiversity main threat lies more in habitat destruction and wildlife trade than in climate change. However, the coral reef demise (only 12% of coral reef is left) is directly linked to ocean acidification which is due to CO2 increase.
Climate change IS human induced
Climate change is caused by the release in the atmosphere of vast quantity of CO2 from coal and oil extracted by humans to create the extraordinary unprecedented growth since last century. Massive deforestation and other land use have also contributed to the increase in CO2 in the atmosphere. In the last 800 thousand years, atmospheric CO2 has varied between 100 and 300 ppm. Today it is nearly 400 ppm.
Methane and nitrous oxide (also created by humans – agriculture) are less concentrated but have a higher greenhouse effect than CO2 and therefore need to be considered as seriously as CO2.
Now, for people who still wonder why we should worry, click on the image below. Early humans appeared sometimes in Pleistocene and all the civilizations we know have developed in the relatively regular Holocene period. If we don’t prevent this sharp heating of our planet to happen, the world as we know it is GONE.
There is hope though. If we choose the right scenario, we can help make this temperature rise go slower, enabling as many as living creatures (includes humans) as possible to adapt…
What will happen?
Projections have been made for 4 scenarios (called Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs).
- RCP 2.6 is a mitigation scenario which aims at, with active policies, stabilizing then decreasing the CO2 emissions before 2100.
- RCP 4.5 scenario aims at stabilising the CO2 concentrations by 2100.
- RCP 6 scenario aims at stabilizing the CO2 concentrations after 2100.
- Now RCP 8.5 is what will happen if we continue business as usual.
So I’ve been very nice and read everything for you and here is a summary of the effects, depending on the scenarios we choose:
|Today||RCP 2.6||RCP 4.5||RCP 6.0||RCP 8.5|
|Goal||Reduction by 2100||Stabilisation before 2100||Stabilisation after 2100||Business as usual|
|CO2 concentration in 2100||398 ppm||421 ppm||538 ppm||670 ppm||936 ppm|
|Average air and ocean temperature
|Glaciers (cryosphere)||2% reduction since 1950 and accelerating||15 to 55% reduction||35 to 85% reduction
(ice free Arctic ocean in September by 2050)
|Sea level rise (does not include the “not agreed on” possible Antarctic shelf collapse)||+1.7 meter since 1900||+0.26m to 0.55m (compared to the average sea level between 1986 and 2005)||+0.32m to 0.63m
|+0.33m to 0.63m
|+0.45m to 0.82m
And in Wanaka?
Just like Wanaka is a “lifestyle reserve“, Wanaka is also likely to be far less affected by climate change than many other places in the world. Not worried by sea level rise! And a bit warmer wouldn’t hurt, would it?
In our mountains, the biggest worry will be a shortened duration of seasonal snow lying, a rise in snow-line and a decrease in snowfall events. Glaciers will continue to melt.
The Ministry for the Environment Climate change projections for the Otago region page is worth reading. They predict:
- around 0.9˚C warmer by 2040,
- it will be wetter in winter and spring (more 29 % in Queenstown by 2090), drier in summer and autumn.
- very heavy rainfall events are likely to become more frequent in Otago, increasing the risks of floods.
- more often and stronger storms in winter (less in summer), with winds increasing between 2 and 5 per cent in winter, increasingly westerlies.
- About the snow, “at heights between 1000 and 2000m:
- the maximum seasonal snow depth is likely to decrease by approximately 20 per cent by 2040 and approximately 40 per cent by 2090
- a low snow year is expected to be five times more likely by the 2090s.”
Unfortunately Treble Cone summit lies at 2088m and Cardrona at 1860m…
In the NIWA Natural hazard 2008 report, landslides, hailstorm, snow storms and electrical storms are all described for Otago. The fruit industry in Otago will be affected by summer droughts. The winter frosts will decline therefore bugs are likely to thrive.
And climate change is going to affect our native species, and their habitats in many diverse ways, states the Forest and Bird website. Birds and natives may have to move up to survive in their usual temperature but it is not always possible so it may mean they are out. Also some species, like tuataras -we don’t have any in our area to my knowledge- need a specific temperature for incubation therefore climate change is adding a threat to their survival.
Conversely, pests and insects are opportunist creatures and will make strides in changing conditions.
There is a last aspect I think is significant for our area: the impact of climate refugees, coming to live in our town because theirs is doomed. This is why it is not only altruistic to act for the climate. We are definitely all in there together!
Solutions are well-known
We all urgently need to stop our petrol and coal consumption. There are so many other ways to produce energy (eg. solar panels), to save energy (e.g. insulate), avoid useless motorized traffic, buy local… And we need to make pressure on our local bodies so they create effective public transport systems, safe cycle lanes, better housing regulations. And we can put pressure on governments so that they encourage renewable energy rather than support fossil industry.
Agriculture and forestry also need to improve their practices. An IFOAM report explains in 2009 that “agriculture currently accounts for 10-12% of global greenhouse gas emissions” (ruminants and deforestation mainly) whereas, “global adoption of organic agriculture has the potential to sequester up to the equivalent of 32% of all current man-made GHG emissions“. So we can choose to buy organic, plant trees, drink less milk… and again pressure governments so that they promote organics rather than throw some sand into their wheels.
We can choose to avoid plastic, to recycle, to grow our own food to build up our own soil… In fact, there are so many solutions, that it will be the object of another article!
Mostly, we need governments to take the right decisions at the next Climate Conference, to choose effective mitigation of climate change and we have the opportunity to tell them :
Come and participate in the Climate March here in Wanaka, on Sunday 29th November, at 2pm in the Dinosaur park.
We can choose to change our lifestyle OR the climate will change our lives.
- Jim Salinger, Climate talk in Wanaka, Monday 4th November 2013.
- IPCC report “Climate Change 2013: Physical Science Basis”