It is official 2016 was the warmest year on record. Climate impacts are taking us into uncharted territory ravaging our planet via floods, forest fires, heatwaves, storms and drought. While our weather is running amok, governmental action remains insufficient to ensure we avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis. But we know who is responsible: the fossil fuel industry.
If we are to prevent catastrophic warming, there can be absolutely no expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure. That means no new mines, drilling or pipelines. None at all. Here below are 10 impacts we want to divest our futures from:
1- Record global warming: Data for 2016 released by three key agencies – the UK Met Office and Nasa and NOAA demonstrate beyond doubt that 2016 was the warmest year on record. The global average temperatures have now risen about 1.1C above industrial revolution levels.
2- Permanently crossing 400 ppm: The level of CO2 in the atmosphere broke records in 2016, with May seeing the highest monthly value yet – 407.7 ppm – at Mauna Loa, in Hawaii, the site of the longest-running measurements dating back to 1958. This was followed by September, when CO2 is usually at its minimum, failed to drop below 400 ppm. Indicating that 2016 will be the year that carbon dioxide officially passed the symbolic 400 ppm mark, never to return below it in our lifetimes.
3- Air pollution: All of this heat, as well as the ongoing use of coal is leading to increased pollution, which is now linked to 2.7 million premature births a year, 18% of the global total. India and China’s continued use of coal is causing an additional 1.6 million deaths per year, and both nations are failing to reduce air pollution-related despite rising GDP.
4- Record low Antarctic sea ice: In Antarctica, temperatures reached 17.5C, the highest known temperature in the region. The extent of Antarctic sea ice hit a record low and a crack in the Antarctic ice shelf grew seventeen miles.
5- Droughts: Extreme heat is causing droughts on all continents. 2016 saw many African countries suffer crippling droughts, these have continued into 2017, with much of Eastern Africa currently experiencing severe drought, leading to dire food shortages. The drought in the eastern Mediterranean last summer was the worst in half a millennium, according to scientific data from NASA. In India is suffering from depleting groundwater storage and the States of Jammu and Kashmir are bearing the brunt of the most prolonged drought in years. In Mexico, the province of Oaxaca has also been particularly affected by drought; some areas have not received major rain in years.
6- Warming seasons: 2016 saw record breaking heat in the Middle East region, Mitribah, Kuwait soared to an astonishing 54C, Earth’s hottest temperature reliably measured outside of Death Valley, California. The same regional heatwave pushed Iraq to set its all-time heat record of 53.4C in Basrah . 2017 has seen temperature records continue to be set, the US experienced an unusually warm February, and in Australia, where the country suffered through prolonged and extreme heat in many states.
7- Floods: Climate change is expected to bring more frequent and intense floods. Peru has suffered its worst downpours in decades that have triggered floods and landslides, killing at least 78 people and making around 70,000 homeless. Floods in Chile resulting from storms in the Andes flooded the Maipo river, contaminating it leading to major water crisis. In Thailand the beginning of the year saw flash floods that killed at least 18 people as heavy rains ravaged the country’s south. The roof-high flooding, affected more than 700,000 people. In Delaware, communities are already bracing and preparing for sea level rise. Estimates show that by 2045 some East Coast cities could flood 3 times a week. Even severe floods have hit Saudi Arabia, caused when 3 months’ worth of rain fell in 24 hours, in the Asir region.
8- Fires: The Australian Conservation Foundation called for the public inquiry after dozens of fires ravaged the world heritage forests of Tasmania last year, fearing that increased fires will be the new norm. The heat is also causing issues in latin America. Large scale fires have caused one of the worst disasters in Chilean history, swallowing entire villages and taking eleven lives. Vineyards, forests, farmlands and lives have been ravaged by the flames.
9- Melting icecaps: In the Arctic, temperatures have soared for the third time this winter, with massive heat storms blowing abnormally warm air over the ice fields. Human beings have never experienced a world with so little sea ice in the Arctic . The heat is also hitting the Himalayas, home to over a fourth of the planet’s glaciers, where a new study of 32 glaciers around Mount Everest has detected dangerous losses of ice mass.
10- Impact on livelihoods: Canada saw its prairies suffer through two times the number of summer hail storms it usually experiences last year, which led to an increased risk in rot and disease in crops. In some areas of Kenya, shepherds have lost between 60% and 70% of their livestock in the last couple of years. In Zimbabwe heavy downpours followed the worst drought in 25 years, washed out nutrients from soils meant for growing the staple crop maize and the cash crop tobacco.
The impacts of climate change are only going to get worse but we can still prevent the most devastating effects from happening. We need to tackle the problem head-on by directly challenging those most responsible for causing climate change. We need to take away the fossil fuel industry’s power to carry out their dangerous business plans that destabilise our climate.
This May, the Fossil Free network will fight back against regressive forces sowing division and hatred by demonstrating the strength and resolve of the many of us across Europe and around the globe that see a brighter path forward.
Instead of hate and fear, we need to rid ourselves of the political stranglehold corporate elites like the fossil fuel industry have over our democracies. It’s time to take back control over our energy system and stop climate change from spiraling out of control.