Climate Change 2013: Scientists and Citizens Must Rally Together to Stop Rising CO2 Levels

Approximately $130 million is needed to move Newtok, Alaska, but community leaders are unsure where the funds will come from, or if they will come at all So the arctic village sits, unstable and eroding into the water surrounding it: the Bering Sea to the west and the Ninglick River which bounds the town's other three sides. A three-part series by The Guardian investigates the Alaskan climate refugees, supposedly the country's first climate refugees, and the climate change-caused calamity facing Newtok. Simply put, as global temperatures climb the town slowly disappears; in a matter of years, it will likely cease to exist.

The realities of climate change are everywhere. Hurricane Sandy was "likely not a coincidence," Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, vice chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change told the press during September's U.N. climate change negotiations in Qatar, who also predicted more frequent and stronger heat waves and storms.

Out of control atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are driving global warming, and the level of C02 is tickling the 400 ppm mark. A greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide is produced by both natural processes and human activity. Overwhelmingly, CO2 is produced by burning fossil fuels; the EPA knows that the oil and gas sector is among the worst climate polluters.

The Climate Stabilization Targets: Emissions, Concentrations, and Impacts Over Decades to Millennia report by the National Research Council concluded that a CO2 between 370 and 540ppm has a 66% probability of keeping the world within the 2 degree Celsius limit on warming. Governments around the globe have agreed to this 2 degree Celsius temperature increase (above the average pre-industrial temperatures of the 1800s).

This 2 degree limit will likely be far surpassed, as the Keeling Curve established at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, UC San Diego which illustrates monthly average CO2 levels, shows average annual growth of 2 ppm. The growth rate increases each decade, as human emissions of CO2 have been more than the previous 10 year span. By the year 2038, it is anticipated that CO2 levels will reach 450 ppm.  

While the press continues giving credence to climate deniers, claiming that there remains a raging scientific debate surrounding global warming, a new survey by a team at Skeptical Science should quiet that conversation.

John Cook, lead author of the study, 'Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the scientific literature,' states in an introductory video about the study results that of 4,000 papers, from 1991-2011, taken into consideration that 97.1%endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming.

"When people correctly understand the scientists agree, they're more likely to support policy that mitigates climate change. So this consensus gap is directly linked to the lack of public support for climate action," said Cook.

The Consensus Project, a peer-reviewed citizen science driven project conducted by volunteers at Skeptical Science was spearheaded and run by Cook, has several ideas on how to tackle global warming.

Without immediately weaning ourselves off of fossil fuels, the project indicates that by century's end, a temperature increase of 8 degrees Fahrenheit will follow. Even transitioning to wind and solar, or so-called "clean energy" sources, a 4 degree rise will occur by 2100.

So what does action look like?

As climate deniers say less action is needed, again, consensus is building about how to move forward.

The first is to hold big energy accountable for the fossil fuels burned and CO2 produced as a result. Other solutions, such as those suggested by Nextnewdeal.net, include calling on President Obama to dismantle inequitable subsidies, reinvest in cities and public infrastructure, create jobs through sustainable energy systems, ban the XL Keystone Pipeline, introduce cap and trade legislation to regulate greenhouses, and assume responsibility for CO2 emissions. 

Without immediate and lasting changes in both personal behavior and more importantly, adjusting the way we produce and consume energy, CO2 levels will continue rising, and so too will global temperatures.

Newtok, Alaska may be the furthest thing from our minds, but their story could be our own. Without stopping the increase in CO2, many of us will likely become climate refugees. 

How likely are you to make Mic your go-to news source?

Blair Koch

Freelance journalist and contributor to Earthworks' EARTHBlog.

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