It’s been three decades; June 23, 1988 to be exact when NASA climate scientist James Hansen issued an ominous warning: Human-caused global warming was underway, and would grow far worse with time.
He made three distinct points that day before the Senate energy committee:
- The Earth has gotten warmer.
- So warm, in fact, that the temperature trend was almost certainly due to the greenhouse effect, which is enhanced by emissions of gases like carbon dioxide and methane from burning fossil fuels.
- As a result, summer heat waves and other extreme weather events will become more common.
“The greenhouse effect has been detected, and it is changing our climate now,” Hansen said.
Global Warming is Here
Since that proclamation of the arrival of global warming, there has been much debate over whether it was indeed true.
Turns out Hansen was right. When he spoke, 1988 was on track to become the hottest year of all-time. Since then, that record has been broken six more times.
In fact, NOAA reports that since that fateful day 30 years ago, the lower 48 states have warmed at a rate of 5.2 degrees Fahrenheit per century, and the globe has warmed at a rate of 3.2 degrees Fahrenheit per century.
Consequences of Global Warming
Back then global warming was our future. Now we’re living in it.
And the consequences aren’t great. Here a just a few according to an Axios newsletter post sent out June 23, 2018:
- In the Arctic, sea ice is disappearing, permafrost is melting and Greenland is losing ice into the sea.
- Around the world, precipitation is now falling in more intense bursts. Heat waves are more frequent and severe.
- In the Western U.S., wildfires are getting larger and more destructive amid hotter, drier summers, and earlier snowmelt in the spring.
How We Can Avoid a Catastrophe
Axios interestingly compares the planet’s climate system to a giant ship. It can’t be turned around in an instant. It takes time and patience. Even if we take aggressive action to prevent a worst case global warming scenario, we’ll still be stuck with decades of rising sea levels and extreme weather events.
At this point, we’re in damage control. And, scientists say the time is NOW to take advantage of the small window still available to make a change by:
- Cutting greenhouse gas emissions, and making our communities more resilient
- Utilize natural gas, solar and wind power
- Invest in more clean energy
Global warming is here and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. It’s our fault. It’s getting worse. But actions now, both big and small, may one day have a positive impact on this problem in our distant future. We can hope.