H2bid Blog

Global Climate Change Part 1

An Introduction

As the Earth’s climate changes, new stresses will be placed on the planet’s
resources and those who are tasked with managing them. The available data
indicates that the global climate has warmed by approximately 0.74 °C (1.3 °F)
over the past hundred years, from 1906-2005 . Furthermore, many scientists
predict that the Earth’s average temperature could rise an additional
1.4 °C (2.5 °F) or more in the coming century. A great deal of attention has
been paid to what contributing role human activities may be playing in this
temperature rise; greenhouse gases, most specifically carbon dioxide (CO2),
produced as fossil fuels such as oil and coal are burned are cited as the major
drivers behind this temperature rise. In an effort to counter the trend, nations
began to propose reductions in greenhouse gases; at the Kyoto conference of
1992, specific greenhouse gas reduction targets were set for many industrialized
nations aimed at an overall reduction of 5.2% by 2010. The Copenhagen
conference, planned for 2009, is expected to push these target reductions even

For all of the effort and attention paid to climate change in the past two
decades, however, many industrialized nations’ greenhouse gas emissions
actually increased after Kyoto. Even more troubling, the proposed reductions
being currently discussed for the Copenhagen conference will likely have little,
if any, measureable effect on the world’s climate. Most experts actively
engaged in climate research estimate that a 50% or more reduction in man-made
greenhouse gases would be needed to diminish or stall the current warming trend;
by contrast, the European Union is currently advocating a 20% reduction plan
over the next 10 years (2010-2020) , a reduction level that the experts say
will offer no impact. These scientists back up this assertion by demonstrating,
through computer-based modeling, that 20% emissions reductions yield no significant reduction in the warming trend.

Change in Greenhouse Gas Emissions (1990-2004)
(not including land use conversions)
New Zealand
United Kingdon
United States*
Worldwide Total*
* based on 1992-2007 reporting
** source data from the 2007 IPCC Assessment Report on Climate Change

Often cited as reasons to push the industrialized world faster toward greenhouse
gas reductions, are the stories of what might happen if the world’s climate
spins out of control. Mass extinctions, monster hurricanes, floods, the grain
belts turning to desert – all have been cited as potential disasters if the world
does not change its course. Even movies depicting a sudden ice age, complete
with blasts of air cold enough to instantly freeze a person, have been produced
as theatrical warnings of our coming peril. To be sure, most of these are
over-exaggerations of what may come, but scientists generally agree that some
change is inevitable; what is not in agreement is what those changes will be.

In light of the world’s general behavior, and coupled with the fact that scientists
believe that deep reductions in emissions are required to produce a tangible
impact, it is unlikely that the current warming trend will stop. What does that
mean for the world? What can be done to prepare for or even mitigate the
effects of these changes? In the next few articles, H2Bid will explore some likely
outcomes of a warming world and propose some actionable plans that could help
to lessen the strain on water systems that may face challenges in the wake of these outcomes.