By Keith Antonysen
On a New Zealand radio station Guy McPherson suggested that humans would be extinct within 10 years, he made these comments on 24 November 2016. (1) McPherson thankfully is an outlier in the concept of human extinction in such a short time frame.
Other commentators debunk McPherson (2); though, in research terms the referred article has been bypassed by new research. Powell, when assessing climate science journals suggested that there are something like 12,000 peer reviewed articles published each year (3).
In 2016 meta Reports have been published in relation to the Oceans (4 ), the state of the Arctic (5), and a UNEP Report on Emissions (6 ). These Reports have used hundreds of references, and represent the work of numerous climate scientists. It is facile to merely write these major Reports off with the comment that they belong to some kind of conspiracy which has an ideological basis, or they are being promoted for monetary reasons. The Reports rely on observed data, satellite data, and modelling.
All of these meta Reports have as an underlying theme of CO2 being a greenhouse gas. Already in the 1850s Eunice Foote was experimenting with CO2 and found that the interaction of light and CO2 created warmth (7).
The lead comments from chapter 2 of the Oceans Report states:
“Rapid and substantial reduction of CO2 emissions is required in order to prevent the massive and effectively irreversible impacts on ocean ecosystems and their services.”
“It is thus of critical importance that changes in the ocean are taken into account in climate talks, and a relevant architecture for this must now be developed. “ (8)
Also, from the Executive Summary:
“Sea surface temperature, ocean heat content, sea-level rise, melting of glaciers and ice sheets, CO2 emissions and atmospheric concentrations are increasing at an accelerating rate with significant consequences for humanity and the marine species and ecosystems of the ocean.” (9).
The Report comments on how there are already changes in Oceans providing difficulties for coral reefs, trouble for particular species and ecosystems. These matters need to be dealt with in a changing and uncertain future (10).
Through the warming of Oceans there has been significant changes in the distribution of sea weeds. Warm water based sea weeds have moved their habitat range from 26 to 1,250 kilometres North and South of the Equator from environments they had traditionally been found at (11).
An assertion from UNEP Report: “The strengthened long-term objectives of the Paris Agreement require even stronger actions than previously identified, calling for accelerated efforts pre-2020, as well as increasing the ambition of the Nationally Determined Contributions. “ (12)
The Oceans and UNEP Reports provide information that indicate the enormity of the scale of climate change; in relation to Oceans normally sea level rise and acidification are discussed; whereas the Oceans Report extends discussion through broaching aspects of flora and fauna, some examples being micro-organisms, plankton, sea weeds, sea birds, and marine animals. The UNEP Report stresses the need for more action to be completed by nations to keep emissions lower than discussed at COP21 in Paris.
In relation to the Arctic “The fact that the Arctic is changing fast is well known: extent of sea ice, the condition of the Greenland ice sheet, the unusually warm temperatures are all widely reported – as are the new shipping routes opening up, and the oil exploration efforts. Less prominent, but also reported, are the stories of Indigenous Peoples whose livelihoods are disappearing, or whose villages are becoming uninhabitable.” (13) The Arctic Resilience Report discusses a number of changes; including shift to ice free summers, collapse of fisheries, and changes in the landscape (14).The Arctic is subject to human driven climate change which has an impact on risk factors in the Arctic Region (15).
A matter of concern: “The great ice sheet of Greenland was long believed to be resistant to climate change, as it takes thousands of years to respond to changing conditions. Recent observations suggest, however, that major changes in the dynamics of parts of the ice sheet are occurring over time scales of only years. The ice has been thinning at rates higher than expected due to warmer summers as atmospheric temperatures rise.” (16)
The ABC (US) found some stark comments in the Arctic Resilience Report: “While some changes, such as warming temperatures, are gradual, others, such as the collapse of ice sheets, have the potential to be not only abrupt, but also irreversible,” says the Arctic Resilience Report. “This means the integrity of Arctic ecosystems is increasingly challenged, with major implications for Arctic communities and for the world as a whole.” (17).
Temperatures have been extremely high in the Arctic over the last months with measures being up to 20C above normal. (18) (19).
In conclusion, it is very difficult to do justice to the meta Reports discussed; the aim of these comments was to display the complexity of climate change. Clearly, many matters which have a bearing on what is happening in relation to climate have not been discussed. The meta Reports provide some optimism providing real attempts are made to reduce carbon emissions. Though real efforts to create change have not yet occurred, McPherson states that extinction is inevitable; a more likely situation is that the carrying capacity of humans, and flora and fauna species on Earth will be heavily reduced.
(12) https://newclimate.org/2016/11/03/emissions-gap-report-2016/ (through second hyperlink)
Keith Antonysen is retired. He is a keen gardener, photographer, and recreational fisher. The Vietnam War and later the flooding of Lake Pedder created an interest in politics which led to a passion for social justice issues. Currently very concerned about lack of action on climate change. Not a paid up member of any Political Party.