Surfer’s guide to the latest UN climate change report

image of flooding in santa domingo from National Geographic

Today the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued its latest report on the effects of climate change in Stockholm. 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 every word in it is pored and negotiated over, to try to made sure it stands up to the inevitable scrutiny it will be subjected to.

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 warmed by 0.11 °C per decade over the period 1971–2010.
  • Sea levels are rising. Between 1901–2010, global mean sea level rose by 0.19m
  • 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 will penetrate from the surface to the deep ocean and affect ocean circulation although it is very unlikely that the Gulf Stream will switch off by the end of this century.
  • Global sea level rise by the end of this century will likely be between 0.26m and 0.98m (depending on how much greenhouse gas we emit).  Nearly all coastlines will change shape.
  • It’s virtually certain that global mean sea level rise will continue beyond 2100 – between 1m and 3m by 2300. To see what this could mean for your part of the world. look here.
  • Oceans will become more acidic with increases between 0.06 and 0.32 in pH levels.
  • the El Niño effect will continue to drive weather variability in the tropical Pacific.
  • extreme weather events will become more common (although it doesn’t state that storms will be more common)

To summarise,

I feel sick writing this surfer-centric summary because climate change will create mayhem for millions of people in countries less able to adapt than the UK or other rich nations. People will lose their homes and their livelihoods and it’s basically our fault because of our lifestyles – including the ‘surfing lifestyle’ – since the Industrial Age began. I only hope it can inspire one surfer to do something about it –

drive and fly a bit less

– don’t buy so much petro-chemical based new stuff

– try to persuade other surfers to do the above.


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