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Human society is in jeopardy from the accelerating decline of the Earth's natural life-support systems, the world's leading scientists have.
Table of contents
Search Search. Further Exploration. Tags: black holes , pi kids. Outreach , Young Minds , Fun Stuff. Fill up on pi in video form on Pi Day. Young Minds , Fun Stuff. Quantum Information. An all-powerful quantum juicer. Astrophysics , Outreach , Fun Stuff. How well do you know your home? Take the Milky Way Quiz! How quickly this happens depends largely on the ability of humanity to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases that are heating the planet.
Around the world, glaciers in the mountains are receding quickly, affecting the availability of water for millions of people who depend on meltwater downstream to supply drinking water, irrigate agricultural land and produce electricity through dams and hydropower. The frequency of marine heat waves — which can kill fish, seabirds, coral reefs and seagrasses — has doubled since the s.
Many fish populations are migrating far from their usual locations to find cooler waters, and local fishing industries are often struggling to keep up. The report notes that some pathogens are proliferating in warmer waters, including vibrio , a bacteria that can infect oysters and other shellfish, and that already sickens some 80, Americans who eat raw or undercooked seafood each year. The report warns that more dramatic changes could be in store. And heat waves in the ocean are expected to become 20 to 50 times more frequent this century, depending on how much greenhouse-gas emissions increase.
Last year, officials in the Gulf of Alaska had to reduce permitted cod catches by 80 percent to allow stocks to rebuild in the wake of the heat wave, roiling the local fishing industry. Changes in the ocean also threaten to disrupt the complex and often delicate ecosystems that underpin marine environments. The report notes that the upper layers of the open ocean have lost between 0.
And, as the ocean absorbs more carbon dioxide, it is becoming more acidic, which could make it harder for corals, oysters, mussels and other organisms to build their hard shells. The main direct causes of biodiversity loss are habitat change, direct exploitation e.
Why Is Degrees the Danger Line for Global Warming? | Climate Reality
Animal populations are dwindling and disappearing on land and in the oceans. And the most recent report by the British Trust for Ornithology found that more than a quarter of British bird species are threatened, including the Puffin, the Nightingale, and Curlew. IPBES estimated that a million species of animal and plant are already threatened with extinction because of human action.
Coral reefs are suffering mass die-offs from heat stress. These events are becoming much more common with back to back die-offs on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia in and That is near total destruction of some of the most important and diverse ecosystems on the planet, which provide food and protection from storms for hundreds of thousands of people. There is strong evidence that many insects are in trouble, from a wide range of pressures including habitat loss, agro-chemical pollutants, invasive species and climate change.
In Great Britain, three times as many pollinator species are declining as are increasing , and neonicotinoid pesticides are driving some bee populations extinct. Insect and invertebrate declines are not just limited to Europe, this is a worldwide issue. Many birds feed on insects, so insect declines have already led to drastically fewer birds in gardens and in the countryside. Insects pollinate many of our crops, help fertilise the soil they grow in, and help control outbreaks of crop pests and of organisms that cause disease in people and livestock.
If insects are in trouble, so are we. Love them or loathe them, we humans cannot survive without insects. Peter C. Frumhoff, Director of science and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists. Global rise of CO 2 emissions per year from fossil fuels and land-use change, which have shown no sign of slowing down despite over thirty years of climate negotiations. Concentrations are now at the highest levels in at least the last 3 million years i. To stabilise temperatures emissions need to reach net-zero.
Indeed the climate will keep slowly warming for around 10 years after CO 2 emissions stop due to thermal inertia! The longer we delay the harder it becomes to stabilise temperatures at a safe level. Unfortunately, because of years of delay and inaction we have reached a crisis where we will only meet our targets if we to take urgent emergency action! Because of past delay there is now no alternative but to really rapidly cut emissions if we are to still stay within this target. Carbon dioxide is not the only greenhouse gas scientists are concerned about, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone and chlorofluorocarbons CFCs all cause significant additional heating.
Earth in Danger
Methane, in particular, is the second largest contributor to global heating after CO 2. Each tonne emitted can cause approximately 28 times as much warming as CO 2 over a 20 year period, but a massive 84 times as much over years! The oil and gas industry, waste sector and agriculture contribute heavily to the amount of methane in our atmosphere.
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Most of the warming occurred in the past 35 years. Globally, the past four years , , and have been the hottest on record , and the 20 warmest have all occurred in the past 22 years. As global temperatures rise we see an increase in extreme weather events such as heatwaves. If we carry on burning fossil fuels, such extreme heatwaves will become an average summer for Europe by and almost all summers will be hotter than that by !
As shown in this graph:. These changes represent a big step into the unknown. Overall, climate change is already having severe impacts and making extreme weather more likely across the world. World Meteorological Organization data shows that there has been a dramatic increase in the number of extreme weather disasters around the globe.
By far the largest proportion of these are from air pollution. Globally, 9 out of 10 people breathe polluted air , ambient air pollution is responsible for 4. Most of these deaths occur in low-middle income countries and are largely preventable by using modern technologies, such as cleaner fuels or electricity to replace inefficient solid-fuel burning cookstoves , or solar powered lights instead of kerosene lamps.
The vast majority of these deaths are due to exposure to air pollution, mostly from small particles that can penetrate deep into the lungs. Young children, those with preexisting health conditions such as asthma and old people are particularly vulnerable. Exposure to air pollutants has been linked to a huge range of diseases, from lung cancer and respiratory infections to stroke, dementia and even diabetes!
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Summary of health outcomes and biomarkers known to be affected by exposure to air pollution, from Thurston et al. Water withdrawals grew at almost twice the rate of population increase in the twentieth century. The global water cycle is intensifying due to climate change. A UN report highlights that at present, an estimated 3. Rising temperatures will melt at least one-third of the Himalayan glaciers by the end of the century even if we limit the global temperature rise to 1.
Melting glaciers in both the Andes and the Himalayas threatens the water supplies of hundreds of millions of people living downstream. A severe drought in Cape Town in led to severe water restrictions being put in place.