Although this winter has not provided us with large amounts of snow, it has been very cold. Besides, spring 2016 has appeared to be colder than usual, with heavily falling temperatures and lots of snow – at least in the Alps. What should we think about Global Warming then?

Well, as I have outlined in a recent blog entry, climate is not the same as weather. This aspect becomes even more relevant, if we compare the weather of a certain region with global climate, averaged over at least 30 years.

If you are faced with a climate-change denier, here are 8 arguments to encounter your opponent – and to show him/her that it is happening.

 

It’s getting warmer

2016 has been the warmest year since records began over 100 years ago. The record for the warmest year had already been broken in 2015 and 2014. In 2016, global average temperature was about 0.94 degrees Celsius higher than the average of the 20th Century. This trend is notably higher in some regions: In Alaska the average temperature has increased by more than 2 degrees Celsius in the past 50 years.

 

No natural reason

There has indeed been a so-called little ice age between 1300 and 1850. Nevertheless, the trend of increasing average temperatures has persisted for more than half a century now. It cannot be explained by natural reasons. Neither El Niño nor fluctuating solar radiation can be held accountable for the current period of Global Warming.

 

We are able to do it

Many people ask themselves whether humans are truly able to influence global temperatures to such an extent that it becomes dangerous for us in the future. As an example, one may think of the ozone hole, which has principally been caused by chlorofluorocarbons (CFC). Those CFCs do not exist in nature; they have been invented by humans.

 

Greenhouse Effect

Every single day, we burn 14 billion liters of the earth’s limited oil resources. The emitted greenhouse gases form a continually increasing layer in the atmosphere so that more and more heat is kept on the earth’s surface. The first man who discovered this so-called greenhouse effect was Jean-Baptiste Fourier (1768-1830). In 1890, the Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius investigated the effect of increasing CO2 content in the atmosphere on the basis of the combustion of fossil fuels. We have known it for some time now…

 

The ice is melting

Since 1900, the sea level has risen 23 centimeters. Therefore, during tropical cyclones or hurricanes the quantity of inundations is increasing. This process does already affect almost all glaciers worldwide. But more importantly, the polar ice caps are already melting. The Greenland ice cap has lost about 287 billion tons of ice annually since 2002. As this process of melting ice is not increasing linearly, but rather exponentially, the sea level could rise about a meter until 2100. This would affect more than 180 million people worldwide. By the way: The entire ice of the Antarctica corresponds to a sea level increase of 70 (!) meters.

 

Weather extremes

The number of volcano eruptions and earthquakes has not changed in the past 50 years. In the same period, the amount of other weather extremes has extremely grown. A single storm, a single drought or a single inundation cannot be simply traced back to Global Warming. BUT: Extreme weather events are more likely to occur. During the great heatwave of 2003, about 70,000 people died in Europa. Statistically, 4 out of 5 heat waves happen due to Climate Change. Moreover, as the oceans heat up, tropical cyclones become more violent because they receive their energy from them.

 

Species become extinct

Not only is the symbolic polar bear threatened. Increasing temperatures and the continuing acidification of oceans – by virtue of increased CO2 absorption levels – deplete many species, affect the animals’ behavior and their migratory routes. If we continue our business as usual, every sixth species could die out till 2100.

 

The Good Thing

As we are responsible for this climate change, we are not helplessly committed to increasing solar activity. By every released ton of carbon dioxide, three square meters of Arctic ice is melting. Thus, an average Austrian or German causes the loss of 30 square meters of ice per year. Every way on foot or by bike, every vegetarian meal and every energy-efficient building helps.

 

Sources

Williams, A.R. 2017 – Erbe im Eis, National Geographic Deutschland, April 2017, pp.90-109

Es passiert wirklich!, National Geographic Deutschland, April 2017, pp.110-119

Plöger, Sven / Böttcher, Frank 2016 – Klimafakten, Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung, Band 1734, Bonn