14 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Climate Change, Global Warming and the Environment

14 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Climate Change, Global Warming and the Environment

As we approach our eighth year in online existence, we’re sharing some knowledge and facts about the environment, climate change and global warming to equip you in your environmental discussions, conservation efforts and green advocacy in 2018.

Global temperatures

1. 2016 was the hottest year on record (since records began 136 years ago).

This was confirmed by both the National Centres for Environmental Information and NASA despite different methods of processing data) and the third year in a three-year record-breaking streak since temperature-recording began some 136 years ago. 2016 the hottest year on record 1 was 0.11 degrees above the previous record set in 2015. Sixteen of the 17 warmest years since records began, have all occurred since 2001.

2. 2016 recorded the highest global sea levels. 2

According to scientists from National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) and NASA arctic sea ice coverage has shrunk every decade since 1979 by 3.5 to 4.1 per cent and has reached record lows. Mountain glaciers are also retreating. Melting icecaps and glaciers contribute to rising sea levels.

3. The first person to make the link between climate and humans ability to influence it was Alexander von Humboldt.

Alexander von Humboldt predicted human-induced climate chance as early as the 1800s and is considered one of the founding fathers of environmentalism. In his book “Cosmos” he wrote about the “wants and restless activity of large communities of men gradually despoil the face of the Earth” and how humans affected the environment “through the destructions of forests, through the distribution of water, and through the production of great masses of steam and gas at the industrial centres.” 3

5. Between 90% and 100% of scientists agree that humans have caused global warming.4

While it is commonly reported that 97% of scientists argue that humans have caused climate change, further research on this scientific consensus reveals that it depends on sampling methodology and timing. Surveys of the peer-reviewed scientific literature and the opinions of scientists and climate experts consistently show about 97-98% consensus that global warming trends over the past century are likely caused by human activity. While the exact percentage is disputed, what isn’t disputed is that a high proportion of the scientific community agrees that humans are causing it. Surveys also reveal that the greater the climate expertise among scientists surveyed, the higher the consensus on human-caused global warming.

Just to be clear, there is no scientific debate about climate change being ‘real’.

Our oceans

6. Three-quarters of the world’s coral reefs are threatened by climate change. 5

As ocean temperatures rise, coral reefs suffer. Coral has low tolerance to increasing water temperatures. Scientists have found evidence of coral bleaching across the globe, with assessments indicating that about 20 percent of the world’s reefs have died.

7. The world’s largest and most serious coral bleaching event occurred in 2016 6

The documentary film Chasing Coral provides horrifying visual footage of this mass coral bleaching phenomena which is a result of climate change and a strong El Niño.

8. 30% increase in acidity of our oceans since the Industrial Revolution.

The oceans bear the brunt of our warming climate. When carbon dioxide dissolves in this ocean, carbonic acid is formed and the ocean’s pH drops. Carbonic acid has caused the PH of sea water to drop from 8.2 to 8.1. causing it to be more acidic than the past 800,000 years.7 Ocean acidification affects marine life like plankton, oysters and coral, as well as other ocean-dependent industries.

“Today, the atmospheric CO2 concentration is about 388 parts per million. This is the highest that it’s ever been in the past 800,000 years — as far back as the record goes right now. And there are concerns about where we’re headed.” – Victoria Fabry, research scientist at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography.

14 Things You Didn't Know About Climate Change, Global Warming and the Environment

9. While reefs cover less than 0.1% of the total area of the world’s ocean, they support over 25% of all marine fish species. 8

Coral reefs are an integral part of the oceanic ecosystem, providing food and shelter for marine life and fish species. According to the WWF’s 2016 Living Planet Report, 3 billion people worldwide obtain 20 percent of their protein from fish and other seafood. Dying coral reefs effects fish stocks and other marine life, which in turn effects food production and the ability to feed millions of people.

10. 31.4% of fish stocks are estimated to be overfished and thus at unsustainable levels. 9

The UN predicts global population to increase to 9.8 billion by 2050 which means finding ways to deal with the issue of overfishing is essential. Finding sustainable ways to produce fish and seafood should be a high priority. Humans too must practice conscious eating, reducing meat and seafood intake and making greener eating choices, such as consuming a predominantly plant-based diet.

14 Things You Didn't Know About Climate Change, Global Warming and the Environment

Water problems

11. Number of people exposed to flooding each is expected to almost triple by 2030.

The number of people exposed to flooding each year is approximately 21 million worldwide. New research into climate change and its impact on communities expects that 54 million will be expose to flood risk by 2030.

12. Nearly 50 countries are experiencing water stress or water scarcity.

Of 174 countries, 47 countries experienced water stress or water scarcity in 2014, up from just over 30 in 1992. The United Nations in their “Policy Brief: Water Quality” defines water stress as “annual renewable water resources of less than 1,700 m3 per inhabitant” and water scarcity as “less than 1,000 m3 per inhabitant, and absolute water scarcity as less than 500m3 per inhabitant. 10

14 Things You Didn't Know About Environment, Global Warming and Climate Change

Animal agriculture

13. Animal agriculture is responsible for 13% to 18% of global greenhouse emissions.

Different studies estimate the impact of animal agriculture differently. The World Resources Institute reports the impact of animal agriculture at 13 percent. The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that livestock production is responsible for 18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Eating vegetables produces lower greenhouse gas emissions yet. The reason is simple – it’s more efficient to grow a crop and eat it than to grow a crop, feed it to an animal as it builds up muscle mass, then eat the animal.” – Dana, Skeptical Science

Fossil fuels

14. The biggest single cause of global warming is the burning of fossil fuels for electricity and heat.

The burning of fossil fuels for energy and transportation is still the single biggest cause of global warming, responsible for 64 percent of human greenhouse gas emissions according to World Resources Institute.

Want to minimise your environmental impact? You’ll love these 101+ tips to help you live more sustainably.

Show 10 footnotes

  1. Climate Central https://www.climatecentral.org/
  2. National Centers for Environmental Information https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/bams
  3. Cosmos: A Sketch of the Physical Description of the Universe (Foundations of Natural History” Alexander von Humboldt 1845, republished in 1997)

    4. The heat-trapping nature of carbon dioxide was first demonstrated back in the 19th century.

    In 1896, Swedish scientist Svante August Arrhenius announced that rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could cause the temperature on Earth to rise. He found that gases such as carbon dioxide and methane and water vapour could create a ‘greenhouse’ effect by trapping heat near the planet’s surface. [4. “On the Influence of Carbonic Acid in the Air upon the Temperature of the Ground” in Philosophical Magazine and Journal of Science Series 5, April 1896

  4. IOP Science http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/11/4/048002
  5.  Burke, L., Reytar, K., Spalding, M. and A. Perry. 2011. Reefs at Risk Revisited. World Resources Institute, Washington DC, USA
  6. American Meteorological Society https://www.ametsoc.org/ams/index.cfm/publications/bulletin-of-the-american-meteorological-society-bams/explaining-extreme-events-from-a-climate-perspective/
  7. Environmental Protection Agency (US) https://www.epa.gov/ocean-acidification/understanding-science-ocean-and-coastal-acidification
  8.  Spalding, M.D., Ravilious, C. and E.P. Green. 2001. World Atlas of Coral Reefs. Prepared at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA, USA
  9. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) AQUASTAT Main Database. Available at: www.fao.org/nr/water/aquastat/data/query
  10. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) AQUASTAT. Main Database, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Available at: www.fao.org/nr/water/aquastat/data/query

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