This has been a bad week for climate change deniers. Two scientific studies published in the past week show once again that our reliance on fossil fuels is having a devastating effect on our coastal communities and our forests.
Increased coastal flooding cause by global warming
The study about coastal flooding, Temperature-driven global sea-level variability in the Common Era, was published online Monday by the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. According to that study, the increasing incidence of tidal flooding in America’s coastal communities is a direct consequence of the greenhouse gases created by human activity.
According to that scientific study, sea levels worldwide rose faster in the 20th century than at any time during the previous 2,700 years. The study found that greenhouse gases emissions, primarily from the burning of fossil fuels, are causing the ocean to rise at the fastest rate since before the founding of the Roman Empire.
The lead author of the study, Robert E. Kopp, a climate scientist at Rutgers University, says that the team of scientists has determined with 95% probability that the rate of sea level increase in the 1900s was faster than during any century since at least 800 B.C. The scientist couldn’t trace seal levels any farther back than that, because reliable records simply didn’t exist before then. So the 2,700 year mark is a conservative estimate.
The study was conducted by a group of scientists from Rutgers University, Tufts University, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, University of York, and Harvard University. The scientists also said that in the absence of human emissions, the ocean surface would be rising less rapidly and it might even be falling.
According to the study, global sea-level (GSL) varied by about +/- 8 cm (3.15 inches) over the pre-Industrial Common Era (a nondenominational term for the Christian era). Then there was a notable decline of the global sea-level during the Middle Ages from 1000 – 1400 AD, which coincided with a – 0.2 °C of global cooling. Without global warming, the global sea-level in the 20th century very likely would have risen by no more than +7 cm (2.75 inches), and it might actually have fallen by -3 cm (1.18 inches), rather than the 14 cm (5.5 inches) rise in the global sea-level actually observed.
So according to the scientists who conducted the study, our reliance on fossil fuels has caused the global sea-level to rise an extra 21% to 50% higher than it would have risen if we were not burning fossil fuels That has caused the increasingly routine tidal flooding, which is making life miserable in places such as Miami Beach; Florida, Charleston, South Carolina; and Norfolk, Virginia. Furthermore, the scientist predict that if we don’t reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, that the problem will grow far worse in coming decades.
Regions of the planet most vulnerable to the effects of climate change
The study about how our reliance on fossil fuels is having a devastating effect on our forests was published in the journal Nature. The study, Sensitivity of global terrestrial ecosystems to climate variability, describes what the scientists call the Vegetation Sensitivity Index (VSI) that identifies areas sensitive to climate variability.
By using images of the Earth taken by NASA satellites, a group of scientific researchers led by Alistair Seddon of Norway’s University of Bergen created a global map which shows the regions of the planet most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. To obtain the data for the map, the team of researchers analyzed satellite data from 2000 to 2013 and identified climate related variables such as temperature, water availability, and cloudiness that affect the productivity of a region on a monthly timescale.
The scientist found that the regions which are most sensitive ecologically to climate change are tropical rainforests; the Arctic tundra; eastern Australia, the Caatinga deciduous forest in South America; the prairies and steppe land in the United States, Canada, South America, and Asia; as well as portions of the boreal forest belt, a nearly continuous belt of coniferous trees which stretches across across North America and Europe and Asia.
The lead author of the study, Alistair Seddon at the Department of Biology at the University of Bergen said that the “study provides a quantitative methodology for assessing the relative response rate of ecosystems… to climate variability. Even more interesting is that as satellite measurements continue and so as the datasets get longer, we will be able to recalculate our metric over longer time periods to investigate how and if ecosystem sensitivity to climate variability is changing over time.”