Climate Facts

Climate change is not simply an issue. It’s a crisis – the single biggest crisis humanity has ever faced. And climate change is not a crisis that might happen sometime in the future. It is happening now, and it demands an immediate and impassioned response. Consider some of the facts:

* Regarding the Keystone Pipeline and the Canadian tar sands oil it would transport, James Hansen points out that those tar sands “contain twice the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by global oil use in our entire history. If we were to fully exploit this new oil source, and continue to burn our conventional oil, gas and coal supplies, concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere eventually would reach levels higher than in the Pliocene era, more than 2.5 million years ago, when sea level was at least 50 feet higher than it is now. That level of heat-trapping gases would assure that the disintegration of the ice sheets would accelerate out of control. Sea levels would rise and destroy coastal cities. Global temperatures would become intolerable. Twenty to 50 percent of the planet’s species would be driven to extinction. Civilization would be at risk.”

* A study released in March, 2013, analyzing temperature changes over the past 11,000 years, shows the Earth moving quickly from near-record cooling to a heat spike. Scientists cite this as further evidence that global warming is the result of human activity.

* Scientists and climate experts say that the safe upper limit for CO2 in our atmosphere is 350 parts per million (ppm). We are now at 397 ppm – and rising 2 ppm every year.

* Arctic ice is a critical barometer of our climate’s health. In the summer of 2007, sea ice was about 39% below the summer average for 1979-2000.

* NASA reports that 2012 was the ninth hottest on record, and NOAA ranks 2012 the tenth warmest. Nine of the warmest years in the past 132 have occurred between 2000 and 2010.

* Despite growing awareness of climate change and verbal commitments to address the problem, CO2 emissions in the U.S. increased by about 12% between 1990 and 2010.