Humans Responsible for Rising Seas, Heat Waves, Heavier Precipitation

Disturbing new climate change report has dire consequences...

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Joseph Spivak, Communication Major, Sustainability Communications Intern

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report in late September highlighting severe climate change and weather phenomena caused by human activity, with grim projections for the 21st century. Scientists now believe with 95% confidence that humans are impacting the Earth's climate, resulting in such effects as warmer temperatures, more intense and more frequent heat waves, rising seas, and increased rainfall in some areas:

The cover of the report
  • Warmer Temperatures: IPCC scientists are 90% certain that temperatures have increased throughout the globe since 1950 as a direct result of human activities, with further warming likely in the immediate future and "virtually certain" in the late 21st century.
  • Heat Waves: Scientists say humans likely contributed to the increase in frequency and intensity of heat waves across the globe, especially impacting Australia, Asia, and Europe; these scientists are over 90% certain that this trend will continue in the long term.
  • Rising Seas: It is likely that humans contributed to the observed rise in global sea level observed since 1970; seas are likely to continue rising in the short term, and scientists are over 90% sure that sea level will rise in the long term.
  • Increased Rainfall: Scientists are over 50% certain that human activity was a factor in the observed increase in heavy rainfall over some areas; heavy rainfall is expected to increase in both frequency and intensity in the immediate future. By 2100, IPCC scientists expect continued increases in rainfall to especially impact "most of the mid-latitude land masses and...wet tropical regions."

What does this mean?
This report solidifies the scientific community's view that humans are responsible for many of the observed effects of climate change. On top of that reaffirmation, this report predicts that many of the changes we have already begun to observe will continue long into the future unless immediate action is taken; this report also states that we may not have even begun to feel the full effect of climate change due to recent volcanic activity and the slow heating of the world's oceans. Finally, leading climate scientists have also hypothesized that there is a limit to the amount of greenhouse gases the atmosphere can handle, a limit we are fast approaching at the current rate of emissions. Essentially, this report raises the stakes on climate change, as we are fast approaching the point of no return.

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