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4.3 Changing environments 4.3.1 Climate change


As explained in Section 2.7, climate change is driven by modifications in atmospheric composition due to land-use change, primarily deforestation, and to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, such as CO2


methane released from agriculture and other sources, as well as the emissions of aerosol particles (Vaughan et al. 2013). The evidence of current global climate change is unequivocal (Vaughan et al. 2013).


Eight of the ten warmest years on record have occurred within the past decade (United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [NOAA] 2018). Within this period, 2016 was the warmest year in the history of instrumental observation (NOAA 2017), and 2017 was the warmest year without an El Niño influence (NOAA 2018). As a result, global warming has reached approximately 1.0±0.2°C above the pre- industrial level (Figure 4.5, Haustein et al. 2017; Yin et al. 2017).


The current GHG emission rate, if it persists, will result in continuation of the current rate of global temperature increase of ~0.2°C per decade (e.g. Haustein et al. 2017), crossing the 1.5°C Paris Agreement target by the 2040s (Leach et al. 2018). While not unattainable, the goal of limiting warming to 1.5°C requires transformational changes leading to radical reduction of GHG emissions and expedited transition to carbon neutrality (Schellnhuber, Rahmstorf and Winkelmann 2016), that requires balancing of remaining anthropogenic CO2 anthropogenic CO2


emissions with removals.


Climate change modifies the water cycle by altering precipitation patterns and seasons. In general, dry areas are becoming drier, and wet areas are becoming wetter (Trenberth 2011;


emitted through fossil fuel burning and


Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC] 2014; Feng and Zhang 2015), but numerous exceptions exist. Additionally, the increased water-holding capacity of warmer air leads to more extreme rainstorms that arrive less frequently (Trenberth 2011). Higher temperatures increase evapotranspiration rates and shift precipitation from snow to rain. A warmer atmosphere also governs the growth, melt and discharge of glaciers (Bliss, Hock and Radić 2014). These hydrological modifications determine river flows and the risks of early spring flooding and summer drought (Seneviratne et al. 2012; Cook et al. 2014; Kundzewicz et al. 2014). Changes in flow patterns alter water availability and, at the same time, higher temperatures increase demands from and competition among agricultural, industrial and domestic users (Hanjra and Qureshi 2010; Jiménez-Cisneros et al. 2014).


Oceans play an important role in climate regulation, having stored 93 per cent of the additional heat absorbed by the earth system since 1955. During that period, land has taken up 3 per cent of the heat absorbed, ice another 3 per cent, and the atmosphere only 1 per cent (IPCC 2013; Levitus et al. 2012). Heat-induced expansion of ocean water contributes to the observed sea level rise that has been accelerating over the past two decades; this trend will continue into the future even if the warming is limited to 1.5°C (Schewe, Levermann and Meinshausen 2011). Higher sea levels increase risks from storm surges for vulnerable small islands, coastal communities and exposed infrastructure. Oceans also absorb CO2 atmosphere. Estimates suggest that, of all the CO2


from the released to


the atmosphere from human activities since the beginning of the industrial era, approximately 40 per cent has been absorbed by oceans (IPCC 2013; Khatiwala et al. 2013), resulting in a reduction of seawater pH (acidification), referred to as ‘the other CO2


problem’ (Caldeira and Wickett 2003; Doney et al.


2009). This ocean acidification combines with warmer water temperatures and de-oxygenation processes to alter ocean


Figure 4.5: Global annual average temperature anomalies (relative to the long-term average for 1981-2010). Labelling designates different data sets; for explanation refer to the source


0.6 0.4 0.2 -0.0 -0.2 -0.4 -0.6 -0.8 -1.0


˜1°C above pre-industrial 4


1850 HadCRUT4 NOAAGlobalTemp


1900


NASA GISTEMP Berkeley earth


Source: United Kingdom Government Met Office (2018) Cross-cutting Issues 85


Cowtan and way ERA-interim


1950 JRA-55


2000


Difference from 1981–2010 average (°C)


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