On Friday, the 27th of September, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued its latest report on the effects of climate change. In scientific, political and conspiracy theorist circles, this is big news. It’s compiled by a smorgasbord of top climate scientists from lots of different countries, and in an effort to made sure it stands up to the inevitable scrutiny it will be subjected to, every word in it is pored and negotiated over.
The report is actually a summary for policymakers, which means it’s not overly stuffed with technical or scientific terms. At only 36 pages, it’s worth half an hour or so of your time. The BBC has a good summary, but if you can’t spare the time, here’s a surfer-centric summary:
What has climate change done up to now?
– The ocean we surf in is getting warmer. The upper 75 m (246 feet) warmed by 0.11 °C (32.198°F) per decade over the period 1971–2010.
– Sea levels are rising. Between 1901–2010, global mean sea level rose by 0.19m (.623 feet)
– The oceans are getting more acidic (which is ‘credited’ with killing coral reefs). The pH of ocean surface water has decreased by 0.1 since the beginning of the industrial era.
– Human influence on the climate system is clear.
What is climate change likely to do?
– The global ocean will continue to warm during the 21st century. Heat could penetrate from the surface to the deep ocean and affect ocean circulation, although it is very unlikely.
– The Gulf Stream will switch off by the end of this century.
– Global mean sea level rise by the end of this century will likely be between 0.26m (.853 feet) to 0.82m (2.69 feet), depending on how much greenhouse gases we emit. Nearly all coastlines will be affected.
It’s virtually certain that global mean sea level rise will continue beyond 2100 – between 1m (3.2 f) and 3m (9.8 f) by 2300. So what does that mean? Well, oceans will become more acidic. They’ll see increases between 0.06 and 0.32 in pH levels. The El Niño effect will continue to drive weather variability in the tropical Pacific, and extreme weather events will become more common – although it doesn’t state that storms will be more common.
To a surfer, this means a few things. We’ll need thinner wetsuits in the future as the sea warms up. This is not a good thing. Your comfort is less important than the earth’s health. Many breaks, along with towns, cities and countries, will probably disappear as sea levels rise and coral reefs die off.
I feel sick writing this. Climate change will create mayhem for millions of people in countries far less able to adapt than the other, richer nations. People will lose their homes and their livelihoods. It’s basically our fault because of the lifestyles we have chosen to live – including the surfing lifestyle – since the Industrial Age began. But there are things you can do about it. They’ll only work, though, if everyone does them. Convince your friends. Then convince them to convince theirs, and them to convince theirs, and so on and so on.Tell them to drive and fly a bit less. Tell them to stop buying so much petrochemical-based new stuff. Tell them to recycle, live clean, and stop killing the planet. We need this place. We can save it – but we have to do something.