According to the four reporting agencies that monitor earth’s temperature, 2014 was the hottest year ever recorded by thermometers, and quite likely the hottest year in the history of human civilization.
As you can see if you click on the chart at right, global temperatures have risen by more than 0.5° Celsius since 1980, an increase of nearly one degree Fahrenheit. Temperature increases are already causing significant changes to fish, forests, birds and wildflowers.
This short video by Climate Central, an independent organization of scientists and journalists, puts global warming in perspective.
What we need to do to limit the impact of climate change
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the only international climate policy venue with broad legitimacy, has declared that we need to limit global warming to 2° Celsius to avoid the catastrophic implications of climate change. At our current pace, that would happen before the end of the century.
Controlling warming would require massive cooperation among the nations of the world. To limit warming to 2°, the 15 leading economies would need to reduce emissions by 45% by 2050. As you can see from the data at left, we are headed in exactly the wrong direction. Carbon dioxide emissions have increased dramatically in the last few years.
What it means for the Beartooth Front
I don’t spend a lot of time on this blog talking about climate change, because what we do along the Beartooth Front won’t affect it much one way or the other. I focus mostly on specific issues related to oil and gas drilling. But one thing I have discussed often is that the lens for viewing expanding oil and gas activity should be the long-term viability of our communities.
One of two things is likely to happen over the next several decades:
- The nations of the world will collaborate to make huge reductions in carbon emissions in order to control global warming. This will mean a massive transition from oil and gas to non-carbon fuels, and render the discussion about drilling in this area moot.
- Politics will trump responsible action, and the long-term viability of our communities will be adversely impacted by the catastrophic effects of climate change: ever increasing heat waves and massive drought, the spread of disease, agricultural calamity, floods, wildfires, huge storms, disrupted biodiversity and animal extinction, and more. If these things occur, the impact of oil and gas drilling will be the last thing we have to worry about.
Climate change is the big picture. On the local front, we need to keep working to make sure that if oil and gas drilling expands, it is done in the most responsible way possible.