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An Agreement in Durban… But Is It Enough?

2011/12/11

As the Durban Climate Conference came to a close, very week agreements were put together.  Some call it progress, however, most scientists and environmentalists say that it is not enough to restrict climate change to “safe” levels.

The nations agreed to create legally binding emission targets by 2015 which would go into effect by 2020.  The good news is that majors emitters such as India, China and the US are on board (and if the US is on board, I assume Canada is as well, although I haven’t read or heard anything to confirm that).  The bad news is that 2020 is a loooong ways away.  In order to limit temperature increase to 2,4 degrees Celsius, global emissions need to peak by 2015 and reach 50% of current levels by 2050 (and those are optimistic numbers).  And even if we limit warming to +2,4 degrees, some low lying islands nations (such as Tuvalu) will disappear under the rising seas and our climate will get much worse than it is now.

Sigh.

And 2011 wasn’t exactly pretty.  According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), 2011 was the 10th warmest year on record but the warmest ever year with a La Nina event (which has a relative cooling influence).  Along with those numbers came this statement from the  Secretary-General of the WMO: “Our science is solid and it proves unequivocally that the world is warming and that this warming is due to human activities.”

For a look at how our atmosphere is reacting to our warming, we can look to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) who recently put out a report regarding weather disasters in 2011.  According to the report, the US has experienced a record 12 separate billions-dollar weather/climate disasters which took the lives of 646 people and had a record-breaking monetary cost of approximately 52 billion dollars.  (The previous record was nine billion dollars in 2008.)

According to the NOAA chief, “What we are seeing this year is not just an anomalous year, but a harbinger of things to come for at least a subset of those extreme events that we are tallying.”

The image below was created by Munich RE, one of the world’s leading re-insurers.  It clearly shows how the frequency of natural disasters has changed over the years in the US.

Natural Disasters in the US.  Image: Munich RE.

Natural Disasters in the US. Image: Munich RE.

 

Sources: Think Progress (WMO report) and Think Progress (NOAA report)

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