Research into climate change has been coordinated worldwide in recent years in order to obtain more extensive and detailed knowledge about this phenomenon. Also, in an unprecedented display of responsibility, policies are being designed to foster a low-carbon economy and combat climate change.
COP21, held in Paris last December, marked the end of negotiations in this direction. The 195 countries that were represented there reached an agreement to limit planetary temperature rise and implement national plans aimed at ensuring that the global temperature does not increase by over 2 ºC by the end of this century.
However, designing climate change policy is complex. The benefits—prevention of catastrophes—will flow to future generations, but the costs of the measures are applicable now and must be borne by citizens and voters in the present. This entails disrupting traditional growth models, decoupling growth from energy consumption and redefining priorities, all of which have a major uncertainty component.
Part of the difficulty lies in the fact that climate change is the subject of a host of partial and apparently contradictory reports, leading to confusion among laypersons. For that reason, we decided to set out ten facts with a view to clarifying what we consider to be basic aspects of climate change. Let's start with the first:
Weather is not the same thing as climate
Scientific observations differ essentially from the sort of everyday observations we can make and discuss in conversation. Just because it's very hot where we live on a given day doesn't mean we are witnessing climate change, just as a cold snap in winter isn't enough to rule out climate change. For climate change to exist, it's necessary for the planet's overall average temperature to follow a long-term rising trend.
In fact, scientists say it is rising exponentially.
The average temperature increase in the last fifty years is double that of the last hundred years. The last ten-year period has been the hottest on record. Records dating back to 1850, which are increasingly complete, support this analysis. The World Meteorological Organization recently announced that the average temperature registered in 2015 was the highest on record, beating the previous record set in 2014 and exceeding temperatures in the pre-industrial era by 1 ºC.
Something is heating up the planet, of that there is no doubt. Either from the layperson's standpoint (necessarily less rigorous) or from that of science.
Guest post written by Carmen Becerril Martínez, External Director from ACCIONA, and Magdalena García Mora, Manager of Analysis of Energy policies and Climate Change from ACCIONA.