New research published in the journal Nature’s climate change suggests that 85% of all people have already felt the effects of climate change, whether due to floods, droughts, forest fires, extreme heat or even unusual cold spells. The researchers used machine learning to review more than 100,000 studies of events that could be linked to global warming, pairing the analysis with a well-established data set of temperature and precipitation shifts caused by the use of fossil fuels and other sources of carbon emissions.
These combined findings – which focused on events such as crop failures, floods and heat waves – enabled scientists to create a solid link between escalating extremes and human activities. They concluded that global warming has affected 80% of the world’s land area, and 85% of all people live in these areas.
“We have a huge body of evidence now that documents how climate change is affecting our societies and our ecosystems,” lead author Max Callaghan, a researcher at the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change in Germany, told Washington Post. The study contains hard numbers to back up the lived experiences of people from New York City to South Sudan. “Climate change,” says Callaghan, “is visible and noticeable almost everywhere in the world.”
The report states: “Using Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers (BERT), a state-of-the-art language learning model with deep learning, we are developing a machine learning pipeline to identify, locate and classify studies of observed climate impacts on a scale beyond what is possible manually. combines this spatially resolved dataset with an approach to attribute observed trends in surface temperature and lattice cell-level precipitation (5 ° × 5 ° and 2.5 ° × 2.5 ° cells, respectively) to human influence on the climate, thus establishing a new paradigm for assessing the effects of climate change across human and natural systems. ”
The policy of no
With COP26 looming, the pressure on nations to step up their game when it comes to limiting climate emissions is intensifying, yet governments are still embracing fossil fuel interests, and why not? Most of the energy needed to sustain the global economy comes from the extraction of coal, oil and unnatural gas. Most Americans are happy as long as they can afford to fill the tanks of each their larger car. Mess with it and you mess with powerful forces that France found out last year when it tried to raise taxes on petrol and diesel.
A study from September in Nature found that 60 percent of the Earth’s oil and fossil methane gas and 90 percent of coal must remain in the earth in order for the world to have a chance of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) – a threshold, as scientists say, would save humanity from the most catastrophic climate impacts.
The American Petroleum Institute could not worry less. This week, spokeswoman Megan Bloomgren said slowing down the country’s energy opportunities would hurt the economy and national security. “American energy is produced under some of the highest environmental standards in the world,” she said. It is clearly 100%, class A horse hump. Ask anyone living next to a fracking operation or read the reports of methane leaks across the Perm Basin. Promising to reduce greenhouse gas emissions without cutting back on fossil fuel extraction, activists say, is like someone promising to lose weight while continuing to consume french fries and donuts.
The results come amid a major push to get countries to commit to more ambitious climate goals ahead of a UN summit in Glasgow, Scotland, next month. Research shows that existing promises will bring the planet to about 2.7 degrees Celsius (4.9 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century – a level of warming that would lead to drastic food and water shortages, deadly weather disasters and catastrophic ecosystem collapse.
Some of the world’s biggest emitters, including China and India, have not yet formally committed to a new emission reduction target by 2030. Activists are worried that a growing energy crisis that has raised prices and triggered blackouts could bring efforts to to get developing economies to phase out polluting fuels at risk. Despite a promise to halve emissions by the end of the decade, congressional Democrats are struggling to pass a few bills that would provide hundreds of billions of dollars in renewable energy, electric cars and programs that would help communities adapt to a changed climate.
The new research in Nature adds a growing body of evidence that climate change is already disrupting human life on a global scale. Scientists are increasingly able to attribute events such as heat waves and hurricanes to human actions. In August, the UN Climate Panel dedicated an entire chapter to the extreme weather consequences of a warming world.
Climate change? What climate change?
The human toll at these events has become impossible to ignore. This summer, hundreds of people died in the northwestern Pacific Ocean after unprecedented heat had baked the normally temperate region. More than 1 million people in Madagascar are at risk of starvation as a historic drought turns into a climate-induced famine. Catastrophic floods have caused New Yorkers to drown in their own homes, while floods have flooded refugee camps in South Sudan.
In a letter published Monday, about 450 organizations representing 45 million health workers drew attention to how rising temperatures have increased the risk of many health problems, including breathing problems, mental illness and insect-borne diseases. One of the papers analyzed for Nature study found, for example, that deaths due to heart disease had increased in areas experiencing warmer conditions. “The climate crisis is the single biggest health threat facing humanity,” the health organizations said in a letter.
Researchers found that there is a disturbing gap between climate studies that focus on affluent countries as opposed to those that examine what happens in poorer nations, something they refer to as an “attribution gap.”
In many of the places most affected by climate change, Callaghan and his colleagues found a deficit in research on what temperature and precipitation changes can mean for people’s daily lives. The researchers identified fewer than 10,000 studies that looked at the impact of climate change on Africa, and about half as many focused on South America. In contrast, about 30,000 published articles examined climate impacts in North America.
In poorer countries, the researchers say, about a quarter of people live in areas where there have been few impact studies, despite strong evidence that they experience changes in temperature and precipitation patterns. In the richer countries, the figure is only 3 percent. “It indicates that we are not studying enough,” Callaghan says, “not that nothing is happening.”
Other researchers argue that the problem is exacerbated by a lack of capacity and funding for research in poor countries, as well as the tendency of researchers to reflect prioritized wealthy nations. But the “attribution gap” makes machine learning analyzes like Callaghans even more valuable because they help identify climate impacts, even in places where there are not enough scientists studying them.
What if we do not act?
Climate Central has put together an interesting video that uses data from Google Maps to visualize the impact that rising sea levels will have on some well-known cities and points of interest, depending on whether we succeed in keeping average global temperatures where they are now and where they are likely if we allow them to rise by 3 degrees C. The target set in the Paris climate agreements is 1.5 degrees C, but many scientists believe that if we do not respond appropriately to the climate crisis, the temperature will rise by about 2.7 degrees C.
If you prefer to experiment with interactive online photos, many of the photos in the video are available online on the Climate Central website.
Will COP26 mark a turning point when the world community finally takes global warming seriously? We can often get clues about the future by examining the past. In that case, the odds are against much more happening in Glasgow than many press releases, pontifications and promises as we continue to pollute ourselves to extinction.
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