Current global warming is unprecedented in the last 2000 years

  Last updated July 29, 2019 at 3:53 pm


Since the second half of the 20th century, global warming events have been occurring at a rate unmatched in the last 2,000 years.

climate change arctic ice loss global warming

Credit: Raffi Maghdessian/Aurora Photos/Getty Images

The Earth has undergone periods of warming and cooling through the last 2,000 years, but using seven different statistical methods to observe these trends, researchers have found the largest warming trends have happened in the second half of the 20th century.

Co-author Ben Henley, from the University of Melbourne, says that the study provides a clear picture of the speed and extent of modern climate change.

“Our study shows that the most rapid warming of the past 2000 years has occurred during, and since, the second half of the 20th century, highlighting the extraordinary character of current climate change, due mostly to human emissions of heat-trapping gases.”

The entire globe is heating up, quickly

Until about 150 years ago climate variability was more regional than global, affecting certain areas of the world more than others.

But now, the entire globe is heating up – a trend not seen for the last 2000 years, and it is doing it at an extremely rapid pace.

Ian Lowe from Griffith University, sends a stark warning, saying that government officials need to stop investing time and money into projects that will ultimately further contribute to this warming climate.

“This surely means that it is now indefensible to behave as if slowing climate change is a luxury, an optional extra if it doesn’t slow economic growth.

“More than 700 local authorities and several countries have accepted that we have a climate emergency that demands urgent and concerted action. So opening new coal provinces like the Galilee Basin, or expanding exports of other fossil fuels such as LNG, are acts of criminal irresponsibility.”

climate change global warming Larsen ice shelf crack

In 2016, scientists on NASA’s IceBridge mission photographed a fracture over 100km long in the Antarctic Peninsula’s Larsen C ice shelf. Credit: NASA/John Sonntag

“We either prepare or die”

But if government officials will not make sweeping changes to save the environment, experts say we must, at least, make changes to reduce the impact on human health worldwide.

Heatwaves can cause premature deaths, and in the face of a warming climate, are affecting not just the vulnerable members of the community but also the working class.

Liz Hanna from ANU says that the “response capacity of Australia’s health and emergency sectors has failed previous heatwaves as victims wait eight hours for an ambulance.”

“We have been warned. Heat emergencies are barrelling towards us and Australia can no longer pretend this is not happening. It is quite simple, we either prepare or die.”

You can read the full AusSMC Expert Reaction here.


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About the Author

Cale Matthews

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The Australian Science Media Centre (AusSMC) is an independent, not-for-profit service for the news media, giving journalists direct access to evidence-based science and expertise. We aim to better inform public debate on the major issues of the day by improving links between the media and the scientific community. The Centre works with journalists to help them cover science as well as identify the science angles in everyday news stories and works with the scientific community to help them interact more effectively with the media and ensure that their voices are heard on issues of national importance.

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