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The New European

Climate love

The climate bomb ticks on

Severe weather events show that our house is on fire. Yet we continue to dither over a plan to save the planet

different problem – on the whole, it just doesn’t sound all that important or alarming. We experience a pretty significant range of temperatures over the course of a year – perhaps around 40ºC, from minus 5 or so in the winter (colder still in parts of Scotland) to 35ºC on the hottest day of the year.

If the temperature can vary that much over a year – and on the day I am writing this piece the temperature today alone will vary 10ºC – how much of a big deal can 1.5ºC or 2ºC be? Can 3ºC or 4ºC really be all that much worse?

The thing that made the scale of the danger of global warming clear to me was a conversation around a decade ago with an environmental campaigner with a strong science background.

They noted the importance of thinking about the whole planet when considering temperature. Generally, the thought is that overall things come out as a wash – temperature is essentially a measure for the overall amount of energy in the world’s climate system.

Given the world stays the same distance from the sun (seasons are just about which hemisphere is slightly angled towards the sun), the overall energy received from the sun – the ultimate source of all of our energy – stays roughly the same. One place might be getting dramatically hot, windy, or stormy weather, but another will compensate by being colder, and so on.

What an overall temperature increase means, then, is that there is more energy in the climate system than there used to be – we are trapping more in the system. In 2012, Professor Steve Easterbrook, director of the school of the environment at the University of Toronto, worked out quite how much more.

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  • Brandon Creek

    46 w

    Arctic Methane is what will destroy us How can we stop it? It’s difficult to continue to fight when one’s opponent has such strength

    • Munene Mugambi

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