Climate change keeps on accelerating

Just after I published an article on how many islands around the world are due to disappear because of climate change, the WWF brings us more data on this very topic.

To their latest studies, it seems that global warming is accelerating as time goes and thus the threat of rising sea levels increases dramatically.

This report is published just days before the discussions in Poznan (Poland) that will prepare the future of the Kyoto Protocol. Time is running out…

To the WWF press release:

“The planet is now facing a new quality of change, increasingly difficult to adapt to and soon impossible to reverse.

“Governments in Poznan must agree to peak and decline global emissions well before 2020 to give people reasonable hope that global warming can still be kept within limits that prevent the worst. “In addition to constructive discussions in Poznan we need to see signals for immediate action.”

The CO2 storage capacity of oceans and land surface – the Earth’s natural sinks – has been decreasing by 5 per cent over the last 50 years. At the same time, manmade CO2 emissions from fossil fuels have been increasing – four times faster in this decade than in the previous decade.

WWF is urging governments to use the Poznan talks for an immediate U-turn away from the fatal direction the world is heading in.

“We are at the point where our climate system is starting to spin out of control,” said Carstensen. “A single year is left to agree a new global treaty that can protect the climate, but the UN talks next year in Copenhagen can only deliver this treaty if the meeting in Poznan this year develops a strong negotiation text.”

Their report notes:

Scientific evidence accumulating since the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report reveals that global warming is accelerating, at times far beyond projections outlined in earlier studies, including the latest IPCC Report. New modelling studies are providing updated and more detailed indications of the impacts of continued warming.

The emerging evidence is that important aspects of climate change seem to have been underestimated and the impacts are being felt sooner. For example, early signs of change suggest that the less than 1°C of global warming that the world has experienced to date may have already triggered the first tipping point of the Earth’s climate system – a seasonally ice-free Arctic Ocean.

This process could open the gates to rapid and abrupt climate change, rather than the gradual changes that have been projected so far. At the same time, updated 21st century anthropogenic emission figures reflect the lack of sufficient concerted global actions on reducing atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations.

Atmospheric CO2 concentrations are tracking those predicted for IPCC’s non-mitigation “intensive dependency on fossil fuels” scenario (SRES A1FI).  Scenario calculation that include the recent atmospheric greenhouse gas levels highlight the pressing urgency for actions achieving those stabilisation levels -identified by the IPCC- that are needed to avoid “dangerous anthropogenic interference” with the climate system in the 21st century.

In combination these two lines of evidence –presented in context in this paper- clearly demonstrate the inexorably closing window of opportunity to confront the challenge and implement stringent emissions cuts sufficient to maintain a functioning planet that we recognise.

The reality of 2008 tells us that climate change is causing dangerous anthropogenic interference at lower thresholds and earlier than expected, both for reasons we control (emissions) and have already caused (earlier and stronger than expected impacts).  The cogent implication of this closing pair of scissors is that our mitigation response to climate change now needs to be even more rapid and ambitious.

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