Manmade climate change has been progressing since the 19th-century, but it’s only recently gotten a lot of attention in the public. Much of the debate, at least in the media, has revolved around whether or not climate change is real and if it’s accelerated by humans. Some even go so far as to say it’s all a conspiracy theory or a hoax, but what are the scientists saying? What is the hard evidence for climate change?
The history of climate research
When discussing climate change, it’s worthwhile to take a look back in time. History shows that it is not something that came out of nowhere. Between 1800-1870, the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere was around 290 ppm (parts per million), while the global mean temperature was 13.7° C between 1850-1890. This was also the era of the first Industrial Revolution, which significantly impacted levels of greenhouse gas emissions. The second Industrial Revolution occurred from 1870-1910. In 1879, the International Meteorological Organization began gathering and standardizing global weather data.
Moving ahead to the 1930’s, reports showed a global warming trend since the late 19th-century. In 1970 and 1988, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, respectively, were established. The IPCC released its first report in 1990, predicting that the earth has indeed been getting warmer, and will likely continue to get warmer. Five years later, their second report warned that serious global warming was likely in the next 100 years. In 2001, the IPCC made the bold statement that global warming was at an all-time high and would “very likely” continue with severe future impacts. This report essentially ended debate about climate change with the scientific community. There’s a probability of over 95% that the current trends in global warming are caused by human activities in the mid-20th century.
In 2018, the mean global temperature was 14.7° C, the highest in tens of thousands of years, while the levels of atmospheric c02 was 405 ppm, the highest in millions of years.
Evidence for climate change
When organizations like the IPCC make their claims, they are studying several factors such as: global temperature rise, sea level rise, ocean acidification, warming oceans, and shrinking ice sheets.
Since the 19th century, the planet’s average surface temperature has gone up by around 0.9° C or 1.62° F. Scientists also point out that most of that warming has occurred over the past 35 years.
Sea level rise
In the last century, the global sea level has gone up by 8 inches, with the last two decades’ rate being almost double than that of the previous century.
As human activity releases more C02 into the atmosphere, the ocean absorbs more. This makes the ocean more acidic, and since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the surface ocean’s acidity has increased by 30%. Ocean acidification has devastating effects on sea life.
As global temperatures go up, the oceans absorb more of the heat. The first 2,300 feet of the ocean has warmed by more than 0.4° F since 1969.
Shrinking ice sheets
According to NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment, Greenalnd lost (on average) 286 billions tons of ice per a year between 1993-2016. Antarctica lost 127 billion tons, meaning that within the last decade, the rate of ice loss in Antarctica has tripled.
What climate change dissenters say
Despite the fact that the vast majority of scientists agree that climate change is happening and it’s caused by human activity, there are dissenters. In the past, they argued that evidence did not actually show a trend of global warming. That’s a very difficult stand to take now. Recently, the arguments are that humans are not responsible for the trend or that the impacts of climate change are not as serious as most scientists say.
Within the scientific community, these dissenting voices are very rare. Their research is often funded by energy and fuel companies who don’t want the public to embrace alternative energies and fuel. In the public sphere, many climate change deniers believe the scientific community is seeking personal gain and suppressing research, but this argument is frequently refuted. The scientists who contribute to groups like the IPCC are not paid, and all research – no matter its stance – must go through a specific, standardized evaluation. If something isn’t published, it’s because it didn’t pass this evaluation and not because of what it claimed.
Climate change is real
Climate change is not a hoax. The evidence is all around us and the impacts that organizations such as the IPCC warned about in the years past are already happening. Because of how the media handles climate change reporting, and the proliferation of inaccurate information on the internet, it’s easy to think that climate change, its causes, and effects is still up for debate. The reality is that at least 97% scientists in the climate field agree that climate change is occurring and it’s because of human activity. It’s rare to have such a consensus in the scientific community. Now, it’s time for action and nations around the world need to step up.