Though millions of Americans remain in denial, the National Climatic Data Center reports that the global combined land and ocean temperature this year, through September, is tied for the warmest on record.
While name-brand political pundits confidently declare that “climate is gone” as an issue after the latest elections, leading climate scientists warn that continued global warming will produce more catastrophes like this year’s deadly heat wave in Russia and flooding in Pakistan, along with crop failures, the spread of tropical diseases, rapid species extinction and the drowning of coastal cities.
How long will it be before we heed the science and act? Turns out the experts have been warning us about the perils of climate change for more than half a century.
Back in August 1953, before many readers of NEXT100 were even born, Popular Mechanics ran a story titled “Growing Blanket of Carbon Dioxide Raises Earth’s Temperature.”
Citing the work of Johns Hopkins University physicist Gilbert Plass, the magazine warned that carbon dioxide released from the burning of coal and oil would raise Earth’s temperature about 1 ½ degrees a century “in the same manner glass heats a greenhouse.” The article noted Plass’s prediction that CO2 levels in the atmosphere would double by 2080, significantly increasing global temperatures.
The New York Times, reporting on his findings in 1956, observed that a “rise in the average temperature of only 4 degrees C. would convert the polar regions into tropical deserts and jungles, with tigers roaming about and gaudy parrots squawking in the trees.”
Today we understand that exotic new tropics would be the least of our worries. As Climate Progress blogger Joe Romm observed, we might be busier coping with the estimated 80 to 280 foot rise in sea levels.
Two years ago, the International Energy Agency reported as part of its World Energy Outlook, “Without a change in policy, the world is on a path for a rise in global temperature of up to 6°C.”
Have we not learned anything since Dr. Plass gave us fair warning?