8 Facts About Climate Change That Are Actually, Horrifyingly Real
In case you missed it among all the other sweeping and deeply disturbing changes made by his administration so far, Donald Trump and many scientists don't seem to be getting along very well in the first week of his presidency. Despite the many facts about climate change supporting its existence, Reuters reported on Tuesday that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was allegedly ordered to remove mentions of climate change from its website. Fortunately for everyone who cares about the fate of the planet, an EPA official later told Scientific American that officials were reviewing content rather than "immediately" removing it, and the content still remains available on the agency's website. Still, though: From what we've seen so far, the Trump administration's stance on climate change is worrying, to say the least.
What's more, communication about climate change both within and without the administration is yo-yo-ing with great frequency. For example, the National Park Service Twitter account recently retweeted two posts unsympathetic to the new administration one of which noted the removal of certain issues, including climate change, from the White House website, according to the Washington Post. Then, on Jan. 20, the Department of Interior's Twitter accounts were temporarily prohibited from posting content all together. (The National Park Service is a bureau of the Department of Interior.)
A National Park Service spokesman told WaPo that the retweets were "inconsistence with the agency's approach to engaging the public through social media," and that "while we investigated the situation involving these tweets, the Department of Interior's communications team determined that it was important to stand down Twitter activity across the department temporarily, except in the case of public safety." The suspension was removed and the retweets deleted, but many in the scientific community remain troubled by the events.
It's vital — now perhaps more than ever — to remind ourselves that climate change is real, and that it's a huge concern. Here are eight facts supporting the existence of climate change that we'd do well to remember.
1. Greenhouse Gases Warm The Earth's Atmosphere
According to LiveScience, greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and fluorocarbons are capable of trapping heat here on Earth. Some stick around for up to thousands of years, and they vary in how well they trap heat. In normal amounts, this is isn't a problem, but when they build up in the atmosphere, these gases increase the temperature of the atmosphere, which in turn leads to global warming.
2. Industraliziation Increases Carbon Dioxide Levels
The Earth's climate may have gone through changes in the past, but there's clear evidence that human activity is the major factor in the planet's current rising temperatures. According to NASA, pre-industrial carbon dioxide levels stayed around 280 parts per million (ppm). In December 2016, they were 405.25 ppm.
3. Methane Levels Are Also Concerning
Although carbon dioxide is the star of climate change, so to speak, NASA also notes that levels of methane, another greenhouse gas, have soared since the Industrial Revolution began, increasing by 148 percent.
4. The Earth's Temperature Is Rising
Again, the Earth's temperature always has its ups and downs. However, the overall base temperature has been rising quickly ever since humans started burning fossil fuels on a large scale. According to NASA, the global temperature rose by more than a degree between 1906 and 2005, and the rate of temperature increase has nearly doubled since the '60s.
5. Sea Levels Are Rapidly Rising
According to National Geographic, oceans have absorbed around 80 percent of the extra heat caused by climate change. In addition to impacting the wildlife living in the water, ice caps and glaciers around the world have been melting, contributing to the rapid rise in the Global Mean Sea Level (GMSL) by four to eight inches over the last century.
6. The West Antarctic Ice Sheet Is Questionable
Last October, a new study was published indicating that the threshold for the disintegration of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet may have already been passed. In a blog post for National Geographic, climate scientist Brenda Ekwurzel wrote that if the ice sheet were to completely collapse, research suggests it would add nearly 10 feet to the sea level over the course of time.
7. It Contributes To Extreme Weather
According to the EPA, the last few decades have seen changes in the frequency and types of extreme weather reported in the United States, including "more intense and frequent heat waves, less frequent and intense cold waves, and regional changes in floods, droughts, and wildfires." The agency notes that "this rise in extreme weather events fits a pattern you can expect with a warming planet." In other words, climate change appears to contribute to more extreme weather events — and these events, as we've seen time and time again, can be devastating.
8. The Clock Is Ticking
According to the Copenhagen Diagnosis, a landmark 2009 report written by an international team of climate scientists, global emissions need to peak by 2020 and decline quickly in order to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Unfortunately, the United Nation's emissions gap report indicates that at the current rate of greenhouse emissions, that goal won't be met. You know, in case you weren't already nervous about the future.