Facing Climate Change, Part I
By Emillia Noordhoek
Editor’s Note: Emillia Noordhoek, executive director of Sust`ainable Molokai, traveled to Europe to attend the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change last year. This is the first in a three-part series about the Panel’s conclusions and how global climate change will affect Molokai and the world.
Climate change is real. Experts predict that oceans will acidify, killing the coral reef and everything that has a shell. This will create global hunger, and be especially devastating for Molokai, where we rely heavily on subsistence fishing. Climate departure will happen sooner in tropics than any place else — as soon as 2020 — manifesting as increased storms, tsunamis and hurricanes, also causing flooding, erosion and runoff. The ocean has been cooling us, and, scientists say, it’s the only thing keeping us alive. But we need to take care of it. At this point, experts predict we’re going to have a two-degree warming by the end of the century — and if we don’t make drastic changes in the way we live, that warming will continue.
Human influence on the climate system is clear. This is evident in most regions of the globe, a new assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes.
It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century. Each of the last three decades has been successively warmer at the Earth’s surface than any preceding decade since 1850, reports the Summary for Policy Makers of the IPCC Working Group I assessment report, “Climate Change 2013: the physical science basis.” This document wasapproved in September 2013 by member governments in Stockholm, Sweden.
The IPCC report maintains a rigorous review process with over 54,677 comments, 1089 expert reviewers, from 55 countries and 38 governments.
This report found that the ocean was helping to absorb more than 93 percent of CO2 emissions, however, due to that absorption rate “the global ocean will continue to warm during the 21st century. Heat will penetrate from the surface to the deep ocean and affect ocean circulation.” The report continues to explain that heating of the ocean will cause a change in the PH balance and an increase in acidification. Acidification will cause the break down and destruction of coral reefs, shell fish and a reduction in other sea life populations that much of the world depends upon for subsistence fishing and food security. The results of this will increase global food scarcity and millions more of the developing world population will be subject to food shortages and hunger.
In order to contain climate change at the lowest level, the report states that a substantial and sustained reduction of greenhouse gas emissions will be the only solution to limit climate change immediately and in the long run. This will also give countries and governments time to engage long-term reduction levels and create new technologies that will allow the earth’s energy budget to be maintained.