Southern California braces for another September heat wave, which promises to make for a dangerous fire season. Despite the risks, it’s an opportunity to look at important changes in our climate and our energy future. It’s also a chance to consider what this century will look like, and how we can continue to manage our environment.
When you think about the past century, there have been a lot of big changes. Some had global impact, while others were local. What’s in store for the future?
A few climate scientists have been using their research to try to get an idea of future possibilities, but so far they haven’t had much luck creating an accurate picture. Instead, they’ve been trying to use models, which can be used to predict what climate will be like in some area of the globe.
But there’s no substitute for actually doing some scientific research — and that means getting out in the field and actually measuring the temperature. What we’ve seen is that we’re already in “peak climate,” in the sense that we’re now seeing the maximum predicted warming for the 21st century. The planet has already warmed about 1.6 degrees Fahrenheit since the pre-industrial era, which is a big jump.
Here are just some of the major changes underway:
Since the Industrial Revolution, the planet has warmed by about 11 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s projected to reach 12 degrees by the end of the century, and 13.5 degrees by the end of the next one. That’s an increase of about 0.8 degrees Fahrenheit in the expected warming — about as big as the one we experienced in the 1990s, when global temperatures skyrocketed up to 10 degrees.
The new research suggests there’s a bigger story going on. We’re warming up at a faster rate than predicted, which is good news. It shows that the world is warming, but it’s still very much “flat-lining.” (The hottest year on record was 1998, and that year’s average temperature was 0.065 degrees.)
Global warming doesn’t necessarily mean that average global temperature will continue its upward climb: It’s still possible