Earth Day: Investing in Our Warming Planet

Earth Day is celebrated annually on April 22. The former Governor of Wisconsin, Gaylord Nelson, was the founder of Earth Day in 1970. He passed away in 2005, but his legacy lives on.

Scientists study the evolution of Earth, including the global changes in climate. Every April 22, Earth Day has a theme. For 2022, the focus is to invest in our planet.

You can make a difference whether it is a small or big group!

“The ultimate test of man’s conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard,” said Nelson.

If you are unsure why scientists are concerned about climate change, here is a breakdown:

  1. Get Used to Extremes
  2. IPCC – What is it? 
  3. Limiting Rise in Global Temperature
  4. Warming in Northern Michigan
  5. Invest in Earth

Get Used to Extreme Temperature and Precipitation Swings

The variation of our global temperature is normal, and so are some extremes. However, as the globe warms, some assume that traditional winter will be no more.

That is not the case. Warming will lead to MORE extreme swings in day-to-day temperature (weather). Heatwaves will become more likely, but so will the possibility of cold outbreaks in areas that are not used to it, like Texas in Feb. 2021. 

Scientists at the National Centers For Environmental Information (NECI) have data to back the threat of extreme weather. They use a parameter called the “Climate Extremes Index (CEI).” Notice the upward trend in extreme weather.   

NCEI finds the CEI by using above/below average max temperatures, above/below average min temperatures, Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI), extreme 1-day precipitation events, days of above/below average precipitation, and landfalling tropical cyclones. You can check out the complete calculation and definition here.

Extreme weather events have increased by nearly 10% from the early 90s to the early 2000s. On average, 18.95% of the Contiguous United States saw at least one extreme event from 1910 to 1990. From 1991 to 2021, extreme events impacted 28.07% of the lower 48.

The red shade represents 1991 to 2021 when there is a noticeable increase in extreme events. The red line is the trend of extreme events. There is a sharp increase between the end of the 20th Century and the start of the 21st Century.

With extremes becoming more frequent, you can expect more heatwaves. You can also expect cold outbreaks in unusual locations as well.

Now that you have a better idea of the extremes of changing global temperature, it is time to dig into some more science and talk about the IPCC and why it is suggested humans change current habits.

What is the IPCC?

The Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) creates reports on the current state of our climate. The IPCC was established in 1988 by the United Nations (UN) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

The IPCC releases a comprehensive assessment report every five to seven years. In April 2022, the IPCC released Assessment Report 6: Mitigation of Climate Change. AR6 was released by the IPCC to “inform policymakers, international climate negotiators and other stakeholders about the latest knowledge on all aspects of climate change.”

The Plan to Limit Warming of Global Temperature Below 2 Degrees Celsius. 

In 2015, several nations, including the United States, signed a treaty to battle the growing concern of climate change. According to the Paris Agreement, the goal was “preferably” to limit global temperatures from warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The latest IPCC report says the rise in global temperature is unlikely to stay below 1.5 degrees Celsius.  While 1.5 degrees Celsius might not seem like a lot, the warming is likely to have significant implications.

Here is a look at how temperatures have changed since 1880: according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the global temperature from 1880 to 1900 was 12.70 degrees Celsius. The global temperature has risen 1.19 degrees Celsius since the Pre-Industrial era (1880-1900). The past rise in temperature is getting close to 1.50 degrees Celsius scientists wanted the planet to avoid.

Change in Global Temperature is Impacting Northern Michigan Too.

To understand temperature change in Traverse City, you first need to understand global temperature change. Many argue scientists “do not show enough data” from the past. The best way to accurately estimate temperatures are through proxies: an ice core or a tree ring that has survived thousands of years. 

Scientists have used proxies to estimate global temperature along with super-computer modeling. Data from NASA shows the natural variability of global temperature and the sudden rapid increase in temperature over the past 100 years.

According to NASA, over 5,000 years post-Ice Age, Earth’s global temperature increased 4 to 7 degrees Celsius. That equates to 0.14 degrees Celsius per century. In the past century, the globe has warmed 0.70 degrees Celsius

The Global increase in temperature is also evident in northern Michigan. Here is a look at Earth Day temperatures in Traverse City since 1970:

The average high for Earth Day is 52 for Traverse City. That is 3 degrees warmer than 1970.

Warming can be seen as far back as 1925 at Isle Royale National Park. If emissions of greenhouse gases continue business as usual, the average yearly temperature could rise nearly 10 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Warming is also an issue at some major national parks across the United States, such as Rocky Mountain National Park.

Colorado gets a lot of water from snow runoff in the springtime. The warmer the temperature, the lower the snowpack. A lower snowpack would reduce available water in Colorado, increase drought concerns, and further increase the pricing of certain crops. 

Invest in Your Planet

Global climate change has a scary positive feedback loop. One thing can lead to another, as mentioned above. Now that you understand the impacts and science behind global climate change, you can work toward lowering your carbon footprint.

Earth Day is a great time to start learning in you have not yet. Check out our Earth Day page for more, and watch 9&10 News for the best local Earth Day stories.