Published on News24: 08 March 2018
In retrospect, it was a prophetic moment back in 1999 … the moment my Einstein-like astrophysics lecturer, Professor Don Kurtz, warned us 4th year students at the University of Cape Town that humankind would most probably be extinct by the year 2100.
His reason was simple … mankind’s unrelenting assault on the earth’s biosphere would eventually render our planet uninhabitable for millions of species, including our own.
I didn’t think much of it then … but almost two decades on, I’m beginning to fear that his statement was more a prophesy than a prediction.
One just needs to delve beneath the media excesses of politics, economics, technology, sport and celebrity scandal to find the following environmental articles published by the Daily Mail over the last six months.
Their collective message of impending climatological and environmental collapse should dwarf all other news:
September 15, 2017
US researchers representing the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego, claim that if the 2015 Paris Agreement fails to contain global emissions and average temperatures rise above 3°C, there could be ‘catastrophic’ consequences for all life as we know it.
Should temperatures rise above 5°C there could be ‘unknown’ apocalyptic consequences that could lead to the extinction of mankind by 2100. The study assigned a staggering one-in-twenty probability to this outcome.
Now, as illustrated by Doctor Veerabhadran Ramanathan – professor of climate and atmospheric sciences at the University of California – imagine yourself and/or your children boarding a commercial airliner that has a one-in-twenty chance of crashing…
November 13, 2017
More than 15 000 scientists from 184 countries have published a letter, warning that humans are unleashing a mass extinction event in which many current life forms could be rendered either extinct or near extinction by 2100.
The scientists emphasise the need for society to adequately limit population growth, reassess the role of our growth-obsessed economy, reduce greenhouse gases, incentivise renewable energy, protect habitat, restore ecosystems, halt defaunation, and constrain the spread of invasive species.
They also urge people to eat less meat, have fewer children, consume less and use green energy to save the planet … and ourselves.
November 13, 2017
After almost three years of negligible growth in global carbon emissions, new figures for 2017 show they’re on the rise again. Researchers believe this rise is being driven predominantly by China's economic growth.
It is estimated that global emissions from all human activities will reach 41 billion tonnes in 2017, following a projected 2% rise in burning fossil fuels – despite a decline of 0,4% in the US and 0,2% across the EU for 2017. China’s emissions growth alone for 2017, is expected to be 3,5%.
The lead researcher, Dr Corinne Le Quéré from the University of East Anglia, expressed his disappointment in the latest figures and warned that, ‘time is running out on our ability to keep warming well below 2°C … let alone 1,5°C!’
November 20, 2017
Professor Xiangdong Zhang, an atmospheric scientist with the University of Alaska Fairbanks International Arctic Research Centre, together with his colleagues in China have established conclusively that the so-called ‘global warming hiatus’ was the result of missing data from the Arctic, and not a real downturn.
Using temperature data collected from buoys drifting in the Arctic Ocean and surface temperatures from across the world, they concluded that the Arctic region is in fact warming up five times faster than the rest of the world.
The findings bring to an official close the heated debate between scientists and climate sceptics who used this ‘global warming hiatus’ as a reason to doubt the extent of climate sensitivity to greenhouse gases.
February 12, 2018
A team of US researchers has used twenty-five years of satellite data to substantiate climate models which predict sea levels will rise at an increasing rate. Their research shows that sea levels will likely rise by 65cm by the end of the century, placing South Florida, Bangladesh, Shanghai and parts of Washington, D.C. at risk of rising waters.
Rising concentrations of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere increase the temperatures of air and water. This causes thermal expansion of the water in our oceans and the melting of land ice which flows directly into our oceans, which in turn causes sea levels to rise.
Steve Nerem, professor of aerospace engineering sciences at the University of Colorado and leader of the study, observed that, ‘This acceleration, driven mainly by accelerated melting in Greenland and Antarctica, has the potential to double the total sea level rise by 2100 as compared to projections that assume a constant rate … and this is almost certainly a conservative estimate!’
February 14, 2018
Experts from the Stanford University, Columbia University and Dartmouth College warn that the frequency and severity of extreme weather events could increase if countries fail to meet the global warming targets specified in the UN-led Paris Agreement.
The Agreement seeks to limit temperature increases to 2°C or lower compared to pre-industrial levels, however, individual states have set separate targets for a 3°C increase … and this seemingly negligible 1°C difference could lead to devastating weather conditions.
Professor Noah Diffenbaugh from Stanford University, who led the study, stated that: ‘Damages from extreme weather and climate events have been increasing, and 2017 was the costliest year on record. These rising costs are one of many signs that we are not prepared for today’s climate, let alone for another degree of global warming.’
Humanity’s wake-up call is here
If you’re still unconvinced about climate change and the existential threat it poses to every single one of us, then you’re either living in denial or just plain ignorant. We all need to wake-up to the fact that our future, and the future of our children is on the brink of irretrievable collapse.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. The Wake-up Call Series of weekly articles set for publication through March, April and May is based loosely on the novel, Wake-up Call: 2035. The articles will look at climate change from a range of problem/solution perspectives using simple analogies for all to understand.
By the end of the Wake-up Call Series, you’ll be far better informed about the climate change and environmental threats we face and how we, as a species, are going to have to mitigate them to ensure our survival beyond the year 2100.
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