Jargon Watch: Committed Warming

coral plant close-up photo

Photo via Gregory Moine via Flickr CC

Committed warming - it's not necessarily a brand new idea, but rather one that makes logical sense yet we too often gloss over it. And it's important we take it into account since it impacts the way we approach combating the effects of global warming. With World Ocean Day on Monday, we're especially wondering how this affects coral reefs, a keystone of the oceans. What's Committed Warming?
The idea behind committed warming is that what emissions we're putting out now, we're essentially committed to. We can shut down a coal plant today, but it has already put out emissions and we can't stop the impact those emissions will have on the atmosphere. We only really have the power to control putting out green house gas emissions today, tomorrow, and in the future with our daily choices. But it's too late to reverse any effects we're about to feel thanks to the emissions already exhaled into the atmosphere.

Why Committed Warming Matters
One of the most important reasons to put the idea of committed warming at the forefront is that global warming is affecting some keystone species, and the warming we're already committed to has some frightening possibilities. Coral reefs support life in the oceans, and warming oceans are causing bleaching occurrences from which corals are having a harder time bouncing back.

The Energy Collective explains the situation well:

Committed warming is a critical issue when it comes to coral reefs. The dangerous impacts of climate change on coral reef are expected to occur sooner than most other prominently discussed climate change impacts (e.g. ice sheet melt, rainfall shifts in the topics).

Why? Water temperatures, only 1-2 degrees Celsius over the usual summer maximum temperatures can cause bleaching of corals and some other reef organisms...A bleached coral is still alive, but is deprived of its primary energy source. If the conditions persist, the corals can die... the physical [warming] commitment alone is enough to make bleaching events harmfully frequent at over half of the world's reefs by the end of the century.

So the concept of committed warming is no small piece of the bigger picture of climate change. We don't like to promote doom and gloom, but if this doesn't shake us into action to reduce our carbon footprints, we're not sure what will.

More on Global Warming Effects
Effects of Global Warming: What are They?
The Worst Effect of Global Warming So Far...
More Proof of the Effects of Global Warming? Past 10 Years Were Hotter Than Previous 1,300 in Northern Hemisphere
Global Warming's Effect on Precipitation Patterns Could Mean Even Bigger Change in Groundwater

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