We’ve all had that moment. It’s the longest part of winter. The skies are dark and cloudy. It’s so cold out even the temperature gauge seems to be frozen in place. Spring seems so far away. And your mind, in a desperate attempt to warm up, turns to thoughts of summer: popsicles, pool parties, and sunny days. What could be better? Maybe winter could just hurry up and be on its way. Maybe if it was just a few degrees warmer, the season would not seem so dreary. So you ask yourself:
What’s wrong with a few degrees anyways?
But here’s the truth. As much as the thought of warmer weather appeals to our sense of comfort, even a global average temperature rise of 2 degrees Celsius will disrupt our lives and challenge our ability to cope.
Think of it this way: What’s the difference between 0 and 1 degree Celsius? Well, that’s the difference between ice and water. One degree can have a huge effect on a global scale in the natural world.
For example, a few degrees of global warming transformed the freezing conditions of the last ice age into our present mild climate. Scientific records over the past million years show that as periodic ice ages ended, global average temperatures rose a total of 4-7 degrees Celsius over the course of about 5,000 years. So what kind of impacts would you expect if global average temperatures were to rise by 2-8 degrees Celsius in just the next century?
You don’t need to guess – we’re starting to see the impacts today. The world has already warmed about 0.8 degrees Celsius since 1880 (that's about 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit). Intense rainstorms, severe droughts, and heat waves are becoming more frequent. Rising seas are damaging homes near the water. Some populations of animals are starting to die out. And that’s just 0.8 degrees!
Now consider what could happen if we do nothing to limit the carbon pollution that’s causing global warming and global temperatures keep going up and up.
In other words, the more we pollute, the worse things will get.
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