The IPCC Says Earth's Heat Is Breaking 125,000-Year Records

No kidding.
Brad Bergan
An image depicting a rapidly-warming Earth, with some artistic license.LuisPortugal / iStock

Change can come easier now than it will after climate change.

The global dependence on fossil fuels has warmed and continues to heat the planet at an unnerving pace, raising the surface temperature by 1.1°C (1.98°F) compared to the average from 1850 to 1900, according to a new report from the IPCC published in the journal Nature.

This is a level of increase not seen since the last ice age, roughly 125,000 years ago. It's time to get real: this is already threatening much of the world's population, so industrial leaders must aggressively cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Because it's already too late to stop mass devastation.

Climate scientists' projection scenarios were just reaffirmed

The Earth's global temperature has swelled roughly 1.1°C (1.98°F), breaking records not surpassed since the last ice age, roughly 125,000 years ago, and this is rapidly becoming yet another feature of our ever-worsening situation as detailed in the new IPCC report, which was written to encourage (or in some cases, discourage) policymakers. The wide-spanning assessment emphasizes ongoing efforts by environmental experts to predict to what extent temperatures may rise if greenhouse emissions continue to pour into the atmosphere, while also offering the most confident projections yet released by climate scientists in the 21st century. One crucial metric involved in making projections is "climate sensitivity", which denotes the degree of long-term warming we should expect if we doubled the levels of carbon dioxide seen during pre-industrial times.

While the IPCC's best guess remains at 3°C (5.4°F), the new report cut substantial uncertainty out of the equation, thinning the likely temperature range to somewhere between 2.5°C (4.5°F) and 4°C (7.2°F). This new estimate was derived with both ancient and modern climate records, and shows marked improvement over the last estimated range of warming, placed between 1.5°C (2.7°F) and 4.5°C (8.1°F), in 2013. The effort to narrow climate sensitivity reaffirms confidence in the scientific community that projections of global warming will trend toward several varying scenarios. If the emissions scenario in store for our future is moderate, which assumes little change happening in today's global development patterns, the average global temperatures will increase 2.1°C (3.78°F) to 3.5°C (6.3°F), according to the report from the IPCC.

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Industrial leaders must aggressively cut greenhouse gas emissions

This estimate is significantly higher than the 1.5°C (2.7°F) to 2°C (3.6°F) limit initially predicted by the nations who signed the 2015 Paris climate agreement. Unnervingly, even if governments make aggressive cuts to greenhouse-gas emissions, the report warns that projections show a global increase in temperatures beyond the 1.5°C (2.7°F) threshold in the coming years, before they will return to sub-threshold levels near the end of the 21st century. "Is it still possible to limit global warming to 1.5°C? The answer is yes," said a coordinating lead author on the new report named Maisa Rojas, who is also the director of the University of Chile's Centre for Climate and Resilience Research in Santiago. "But unless there are immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions of all greenhouse gases, limiting global warming to 1.5°C will be beyond reach."

People like to say it's easy to give up hope and let the worst scenario become real, but they're wrong. In moderate-to-severe climate sensitivity cases, the real work hasn't even begun, as today's industrial infrastructure would work ordinary citizens to a level of mind-destroying labor that may never have existed before, while the few richest billionaires fly into space. They won't cut all fossil fuel and greenhouse gas emissions as a favor to the species. This means it's up to the global community — that is, ordinary citizens — to do whatever it takes to restrict those in control of the world's major industries from continuing to poison the oceans, pollute the air, and lower the quality and length of life for the entire human race. Not necessarily because it's the right thing to do, but because it's the only thing we'll be capable of doing, as the IPCC's projections become our reality in the past, present, and future.