The fires that have swept parts of Australia are a near certain sign of what is to come if the globe’s temperature is allowed to rise to dangerous levels. Currently sitting at a global temperature of 1.1 degrees, these images display what a 3C world could look like.
Richard Betts, professor of geography at Exeter University described the images seen from Australia as “This is what you can expect to happen… at an average of 3C (above pre-industrial levels).” He continued to elaborate on the somewhat apocalyptic scenes. “It tells us what the future world might look like. This really brings home what climate change means.”
Pre-industrial levels in Australia were about 1.4C before this seasons fires, showing a greater rapid rate of heating that’s above the average temperature of the globe.
Many scientists have warned that if, or in current circumstances, when, the rise of global temperature lays beyond 2C, the impacts are likely to be irreversible and catastrophic. However, the Paris agreement and other current global commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions aren’t enough and are estimated to put the world on track for 3C heating.
Bearing in mind, the fires in Australia and the floods in Cambodia are just the effects of a 1C heating. If we do reach a 3C heating, the impacts will be more severe.
Global warming, whether you believe it or not, has increased the frequency and severity of fire weather. The key ingredient in which wildfires start. Around the world, a review of 57 recent scientific papers has shown.
But management of the land was implemented to help reduce the number that would have been expected in Australia, said Mathew Jones, a research associate at UEA “Climate change increases the frequency and severity of fire weather across the globe but humans have moderated how this risk translates into fire. Land management has reduced the incidence of fire globally.”
He added that attempts to regrow the forests that have been damaged would also help. A method that consists of the trees taking up the carbon dioxide that has been emitted in the atmosphere. However, this would take decades of new tree growth.
Although, the area of land that has been burned has actually decreased in recent years. A study found that largely owing to the clearing of savannahs for agriculture and people suppressing fires. One of the main concerns are of the regions that are home to closed canopy forests. Damage caused to these areas will likely lead to forest degradation and climate breakdown.
There has been little hope offered in some areas with light rain fall, but there is not likely to be any relief in the coming summer months. The Indian Ocean dipole weather system that has been the cause of bringing hotter and drier conditions to Australia is now passed its peak. On the other hand, weather systems in the eastern Pacific have brought hotter temperatures to Australia which could result in ongoing hot and dry weather through the remainder of this month and into February.
Betts continued to say that the extremes we are witnessing in Australia shows what climate change would look like in the coming x amount of years if we do not change our ways. The fires show a clear influence of human-induced climate change, though more studies were likely to confirm this in the coming months.
The UEA will produce a study on carbon cycle feedbacks before the COP26 UN climate conference in Glasgow in November. This is the time when countries are expected to give stronger commitments on greenhouse gas emissions in pursuit of reaching the aims of the Paris agreement.
Credit: Fiona Harvey – Environment correspondent – The Guardian