2015 was the hottest year in recorded history. If this fact only sobered you to the impending dangers to the Earth after it was stated by Leonardo Dicaprio during his 2016 Oscar acceptance speech, then you’re a little late to grasp the gravity of our current climate situation. The perennial nominee snuck in the message after mentioning that his film The Revenant was about man’s relationship to the natural world, even though it might not have been the Oscar winning film with the greatest connection to climate change and its threats (see Mad Max: Fury Road, which took home 6 Academy Awards).
He wasn’t wrong, however. 2015 was, in fact, the hottest year in historical record, amongst a collection of weather and climate data that spans back to 1880. In gaining this alarming accolade, the year of 2015 beat out the former contender of the title, 2014, by shattering its average temperature mark by 0.23°F (0.13°C). In the United States, 2015, was the second hottest year on record, likely due to the relatively toasty December that was felt in the East Coast. As indicated by the now-Oscar-winning actor, this warming is representative of the effects of anthropogenic climate change, but, just as it took him six tries to get his hands on one award, scientists and other officials have had difficulty convincing the public of its danger.
As we discussed in our post on ISO 14001:2015 and Climate Change, carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases essentially trap heat in the atmosphere, and their concentrations have naturally fluctuated throughout time. However, by burning coal and other fossil fuels, we have introduced a massive amount of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, particularly carbon dioxide, which is in the process of raising the temperature of the Earth. Methane, released from raising livestock and through the leakage of natural gas systems, is also a major contributor. Our celestial neighbor, Venus, is currently in a greenhouse effect that traps the heat coming from the Sun, keeping all of the planet’s water in the atmosphere. In turn, this water vapor contributes to the greenhouse effect.
|The uninhabitable Venus is undergoing a greenhouse effect|
The scientific community has heavily accepted anthropogenic climate change. 97 percent or more of climate scientists actively publishing in peer-reviewed journals acknowledge that humans are responsible for the recent warming. However, despite this irrefutable scientific consensus, people still deny the presence of climate change, with the home of the most deniers also being one of the biggest polluters of greenhouse gases – the United States.
According to a poll taken in 20 different countries and surveying 16,000 different people, 52 percent of Americans agreed with the statement “The climate change we are currently seeing is a natural phenomenon that happens from time to time.” However, as stated in Doran 2009, “the debate on the authenticity of global warming and the role played by human activity is largely nonexistent among those who understand the nuances and scientific basis of long-term climate processes”. The public has a view that disregards science, and it really comes from a lack of understanding.
A good example of this is with Forbes contributor James Taylor, who has penned several pieces citing what he claims are faults in the beliefs of “global warming activists”, such as how cold temperatures for a single month in five cities indicates that climate change is a hoax. While this one example is probably mostly nitpicking facts that inaccurately portray an entire climate system, it does stem from the misconception that climate scientists are only stating that the Earth warming is the only result of climate change.
|Unpredictable natural disasters could stem from future climate change|
In response to this common critique, scientists have proposed that instead of using the term global warming, the public should adopt “global weirding”. Climate change leads to a myriad of weather events, the most troublesome are the potential extreme ones, such as storms, droughts, and wildfires. In the near future, according to the U.S Geological Survey, we will the sea levels rise as disasters and droughts occur on a scale unlike anything in recent human history. It’s definitely global weirding, but it can be difficult to imagine the term catching on.
Just as one cold day doesn’t disprove the presence of climate change, neither does one warm day prove the point. Dicaprio’s call to action, despite coming from a celebrity and not a scientist, shouldn’t be ignored. Today, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is over 400 ppm, a 24 percent increase since the mid Twentieth Century and the highest concentration since the Pliocene epoch over 2 million years ago. Whether you are now feeling it or not, on average, the planet is currently getting warmer, and it can soon get “weirder” in response.
Luckily, there have already been many global legislation efforts confronting climate change, in attempts to curb greenhouse gas emissions and manage gases already in the atmosphere. In addition, the standardization community has drafted guidelines that ensure environmental safety, including greenhouse gas standards and environmental management standards like ISO 14001.
If you’d like to read more about climate change myths and scientific explanations of their falsehood, please refer to https://www.skepticalscience.com/.