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Climate Change’s Fight Harder Than Thought: Study

This new research suggests that accomplishing that goal requires countries to pull 25 percent more carbon out of the atmosphere than they've already committed to cleaning up.

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Oceans, Temperature
People walk on the beach of Biarritz, southwestern France, along the Atlantic Ocean, Dec. 18, 2015. New research shows the oceans are storing much more heat than previously thought. VOA

A new report recently published in the journal Nature suggests the Earth’s oceans are absorbing more of the planet’s excess heat than previously thought.

Scientists have known for some time that oceans store excess heat energy, and this helps keep the planet in its balmy, just-right temperature for supporting the explosion of life on Earth.

Knowing how hot the ocean is getting, and how fast that temperature is rising, helps scientists understand more about human-impacted climate change. It helps them know how much excess energy is being produced, and it helps them predict how much heat the ocean is capable of absorbing and how much warming will be felt on the Earth’s surface.

Oceans, boats
Lobster boats are moored in the harbor in Stonington, Maine. VOA

Up until the report was issued this week, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) thought it had a pretty good handle on how much excess energy the oceans were absorbing. Using those numbers, the panel set targets for the amount of carbon reduction necessary to slow, and ultimately reverse, potentially devastating planetary warming.

But these new numbers suggest those targets may have to be revised upward by 25 percent. Research by the study’s lead author, Princeton professor Laure Resplandy, indicates our oceans are absorbing about 60 percent more heat energy than previously estimated.

According to Resplandy, the world’s oceans have taken up more than 13 zettajoules of energy every year between 1991 and 2016. A joule is the standard unit of energy; a zettajoule is one joule, followed by 21 zeroes.

Oceans, arctic
FILE – A young polar bear walks on ice over deep waters of the Arctic Ocean. VOA

“Imagine if the ocean was only 30 feet deep,” Resplandy said. “Our data show that it would have warmed by 6.5 degrees Celsius every decade since 1991. In comparison, the estimate of the last IPCC assessment report would correspond to a warming of only 4 degrees Celsius every decade.”

How they got the new numbers

It’s not that the old numbers were wrong; it’s that the new numbers relied on new techniques and new ways to measure ocean warming. The old techniques used spot measurements of ocean temperature. But Resplandy and her team measured the amount of oxygen and carbon in the air, a number they call “Atmospheric Oxygen Potential (APO).” As oceans warm, they release oxygen and carbon into the atmosphere, which increases APO.

Another factor that raises APO is the burning of fossil fuels. Resplandy and her team compared the expected rise in APO due to the burning of fossil fuels, and compared it to the actual APO they were seeing. By looking at the difference, the team was able to predict how much carbon and oxygen were being released by the oceans and, therefore, how warm the world’s oceans were getting.

climate, global warming, celsisu, oceansac
A fisherman stands on his boat as he fishes at the Tisma lagoon wetland park, also designated as Ramsar Site 1141 in the Convention on Wetlands, in Tisma, Nicaragua. VOA

Why the new numbers matter

A host of countries, including the U.S. and China, signed the Paris Climate Accord in 2015, which aims to keep average global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Many climate scientists predict that if temperatures go above that mark, humans will be faced with devastating long-term global affects. Keeping those temperatures down requires cutting the amount of greenhouse gases pumped into the atmosphere.

Also Read: New Carbon Capture Technology Now Able To Fight Climate Change: Experts

The U.S. has since pulled out of that climate agreement, but most of the rest of the world remains focused on limiting the rise of the world’s average temperatures.

This new research suggests that accomplishing that goal requires countries to pull 25 percent more carbon out of the atmosphere than they’ve already committed to cleaning up. (VOA)

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Climate Change Would Affect Health Of Indian Children: Lancet

Climate change would hit health of Indian children hard, says study by Lancet

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children
Children in India will be particularly vulnerable to the ill effects of climate change. Pixabay

Children in India will be particularly vulnerable to the ill effects of climate change such as worsening air quality, higher food prices and rise in infectious diseases, warns a new study published in the journal The Lancet.

Climatic suitability for the Vibrio bacteria that cause cholera is rising three per cent a year in India since the early 1980s, said the report.

“With its huge population and high rates of healthcare inequality, poverty, and malnutrition, few countries are likely to suffer from the health effects of climate change as much as India,” said study co-author Poornima Prabhakaran from the Public Health Foundation of India.

“Diarrhoeal infections, a major cause of child mortality, will spread into new areas, whilst deadly heatwaves, similar to the one in 2015 that killed thousands of people in India, could soon become the norm,” Prabhakaran said.

Through adolescence and into adulthood, a child born today will be breathing more toxic air, driven by the fossil fuels and made worse by rising temperatures.

This is especially damaging to young people as their lungs are still developing, so polluted air takes a great toll, contributing to reduced lung function, worsening asthma, and increasing the risk of heart attacks and stroke.

Later in life, a child born today will face increased risk from severe floods, prolonged droughts, and wildfires.

 

children
Children in India breathe toxic air and may develop lung diseases. Pixabay

Most countries have experienced an increase in people exposed to wildfires since 2001-2004 with a financial toll per person 48 times larger than flooding.

India alone saw an increase of more than 21 million exposures, and China around 17 million, resulting in direct deaths and respiratory illness as well as loss of homes, said the report.

“Over the past two decades, the Government of India has launched many initiatives and programmes to address a variety of diseases and risk factors. But this report shows that the public health gains achieved over the past 50 years could soon be reversed by the changing climate,” Prabhakaran said.

The “Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change” is a yearly analysis tracking progress across 41 key indicators, demonstrating what action to meet Paris Agreement targets — or business as usual — means for human health.

The project is a collaboration between 120 experts from 35 institutions including the World Health Organisation (WHO), World Bank, University College London, and Tsinghua University.

For the world to meet its UN climate goals and protect the health of the next generation, the energy landscape will have to change drastically, the report warns.

Also Read- Prince Charles Talks Climate Change in India

Nothing short of a 7.4 per cent year-on-year cut in fossil CO2 emissions from 2019 to 2050 will limit global warming to the more ambitious goal of 1.5 degree Celsius, said the report. If the world follows a business-as-usual pathway, with high carbon emissions and climate change continuing at the current rate, a child born today will face a world on average over 4 degree Celsius warmer by their 71st birthday, threatening their health at every stage of their lives. (IANS)