01 December 2023

The Climate Report

Welcome back. Four years ago, a global coalition of scientists, led by Oregon State University researchers, published a paper, World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency. The paper was cosigned by more than 11,000 scientists from 153 countries.

Interviewed, the lead author stated: Despite 40 years of major global negotiations, we have continued to conduct business as usual and have failed to address this crisis. Climate change has arrived and is accelerating faster than many scientists expected.

I’m going to guess that recent climate records and disasters have convinced many that the climate change predicted in 1988 is indeed happening (see blog post Consider Catastrophic Climate Change), that life on Earth may well be imperiled without action.

Nature struck relentlessly in 2020 with record-breaking and deadly weather -- and climate-related disasters, Photo | AP (from www.newindianexpress.com/galleries/world/2020/dec/18/the-stormy-fiery-year-when-climate-disasters-wouldnt-stop-in-2020-103039--1.html).

But if anyone still needs convincing, the Oregon State University researchers are back with 10 international co-authors and more than 15,000 scientist cosigners from 161 countries. They’ve published an update that I’ll highlight: The 2023 state of the climate report: Entering uncharted territory.

Planetary Vital Sign Trends
In their earlier paper, the authors introduced a graphical suite of planetary vital signs of climate change and impacts. Of the 35 planetary vital signs tracked by the authors, 20 are now at record extremes. I offer excerpts about selected trends.

Carbon emissions have continued soaring, and fossil fuels remain dominant, with coal consumption reaching a near all-time high in 2022. Although renewable energy (solar and wind) grew 17% between 2021 and 2022, it remains roughly 15 times lower than fossil fuel consumption.

Global mean greenhouse gases and temperature
[T]hree important greenhouse gases--carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide--are all at record levels. The global average carbon dioxide concentration is now approximately 420 parts per million, which is far above the proposed planetary boundary of 350 parts per million. In addition, 2023 is on track to be one of the hottest years on record.

Global average carbon dioxide concentration vs. year (from academic.oup.com/bioscience/advance-article/doi/10.1093/biosci/biad080/7319571).

Oceans and ice
Ocean acidity, glacier thickness and Greenland ice mass all fell to record lows; sea level rise and ocean heat content rose to record highs. The increase in heat content and the rapid rise in sea surface temperatures could have serious impacts, including the loss of sea life, coral reefs dying and a rise in the intensity of large tropical storms.

Climate impacts and extreme weather
Climate change is contributing significantly to human suffering. Climate-related impacts in 2022 included another billion-dollar flood in the US, in Kentucky and Missouri, and the third highest frequency of extremely hot days. Between 2021 and 2022, wildfire activity in the US rose by 6.3%.

Of Particular Concern
Fossil fuel subsidies (i.e., tax breaks on consumption or exploration) roughly doubled in 2021-2022 to top $1 trillion. Some 735 million people faced chronic hunger in 2022, an increase of approximately 122 million since 2019. This year, Canadian wildfires pumped more than 1 gigaton of carbon into the atmosphere; 38 days had global temperatures exceeding preindustrial levels by more than 1.5°C; and an average global surface temperature in July may have been the highest on Earth in 100,000 years. 

Fossil fuel subsidies vs year (from academic.oup.com/bioscience/advance-article/doi/10.1093/biosci/biad080/7319571).

Wrap Up
The researchers add recommendations involving economics, stopping warming, stopping coal consumption, feedback loops, food security and undernourishment, and justice.

They conclude in part: As scientists, we are increasingly being asked to tell the public the truth about the crises we face in simple and direct terms. The truth is that we are shocked by the ferocity of the extreme weather events in 2023. We are afraid of the uncharted territory that we have now entered.

Thanks for stopping by.

Earlier world scientists’ warning paper: academic.oup.com/bioscience/article/70/1/8/5610806
Article on earlier study and interview in Oregon State University news: today.oregonstate.edu/news/world-scientists-declare-climate-emergency-establish-global-indicators-effective-action
2023 state of the climate report: academic.oup.com/bioscience/advance-article/doi/10.1093/biosci/biad080/7319571
Article on 2023 report on EurekAlert! website: www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/1004610

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