Shaun Marcott, a geologist at Oregon State University, says "global temperatures are warmer than about 75 percent of anything we've seen over the last 11,000 years or so." The other way to look at that is, 25 percent of the time since the last ice age, it's been warmer than now.
You might think, so what's to worry about? But Marcott says the record shows just how unusual our current warming is. "It's really the rates of change here that's amazing and atypical," he says. Essentially, it's warming up superfast.
Here's what happened. After the end of the ice age, the planet got warmer. Then, 5,000 years ago, it started to get cooler —but really slowly. In all, it cooled 1.3 degrees Fahrenheit, up until the last century or so. Then it flipped again —global average temperature shot up.
"Temperatures now have gone from that cold period to the warm period in just 100 years," Marcott says.
So it's taken just 100 years for the average temperature to change by 1.3 degrees, when it took 5,000 years to do that before. [...]
"The climate changes to come are going to be larger than anything that human civilization and agriculture has seen in its entire existence," says Gavin Schmidt, a climate researcher at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies. "And that is quite a sobering thought."
This is further evidence of just how much trouble we're in. Climate change is indeed the crisis of our time. And if left unchecked, we're in for even more frightening weather ahead.
And in case that isn't bad enough, there's even more frightening climate news today. Global temperatures rose at an alarming pace just last year. We likely have even less time to act than we thought just last year.
The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere underwent one of its biggest single-year jumps ever in 2012, according to researchers at the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration. Between the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2013, carbon dioxide levels increased by 2.67 parts per million —a rise topped only by the spike in 1998. [...]
There is a limited “budget” of carbon the world can dump into the atmosphere while still maintaining a reasonable chance of staying under the 2 degree limit: 565 gigatons by 2050 to keep our chances at 75 percent, to be precise. At our current trends —and as 2012′s jump can attest —we’re set to burn through that budget in 16 years, rendering our chances of staying under 2 degrees of warming alarmingly thin. Getting back on track will require keeping the overwhelming majority of the fossil fuel available to us in the ground.
Otherwise, we face destructively high sea level rise, water supplies for hundreds of millions of people threatened by climate shifts, global crop declines, bleached coral reefs around the world, a rise in ocean acidification threatening marine ecosystems,and a host of other crises.
So the deadline for serious action is coming even sooner than we had originally expected. What are we doing to make that deadline?
Many times before, we've discussed Nevada's potential to become a leading renewable energy hub. Our economy stands to benefit immensely from increased investment in renewable energy. That alone should make this a no-brainer.
However, there's another important reason why we should make the switch from dirty fossil fuels to clean renewables... And do so very soon. We simply can't afford more carbon emissions. With every day we continue relying on fossil fuels, we're a day closer to climate catastrophe.
We desperately need a full, comprehensive approach to climate change. This means more renewable energy. This also means less fossil fueled energy. And it means setting an aggressive carbon cap to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
Climate change is no longer some esoteric topic for debate. It's happening now. And we're even closer to epic disaster than we had thought just last year. Something must change.