‘Earth’s vital signs have worsened beyond anything humans have yet seen’

A report “The 2023 State of the climate report: Entering uncharted territory” notes that 20 of 35 planetary vital signs  used to track climate change are at record extremes.

The report follows by four years the “World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency” published by Prof Ripple and collaborators in BioScience and co-signed by more than 15,000 scientists in 161 countries.

Prof Ripple explained:

“Life on our planet is clearly under siege. The statistical trends show deeply alarming patterns of climate-related variables and disasters. We also found little progress to report as far as humanity combating climate change.”

Among the key numbers in the report:

  • Fossil fuel subsidies – actions by governments that artificially lower the cost of energy production, raise the price received by producers or lower the price paid by consumers – roughly doubled between 2021 and 2022, from $531 billion to just over $1 trillion.
  • Already this year wildfires in Canada have pumped more than 1 gigaton of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, greater than Canada’s total 2021 greenhouse gas emissions of 0.67 gigatons.
  • In 2023, there have already been 38 days with global average temperatures more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Until this year, such days were a rarity, the authors note.
  • The highest average Earth surface temperature ever recorded came this past July, and there’s reason to believe it was the highest surface temperature the planet has seen in the last 100,000 years.

 Christopher Wolf, a scientist with Corvallis-based Terrestrial Ecosystems Research Associates, said:

“As scientists, we are hugely troubled by the sudden increases in the frequency and severity of climate-related disasters. The frequency and severity of those disasters might be outpacing rising temperatures. By the end of the 21st century, as many as 3 to 6 billion people may find themselves outside the Earth’s liveable regions, meaning they will be encountering severe heat, limited food availability and elevated mortality rates.”

The researchers state that transitioning to a global economy that prioritizes human well-being and curtails overconsumption and excessive emissions by the rich. Specific recommendations include phasing out fossil fuel subsidies, transitioning toward plant-based diets, scaling up forest protection efforts and adopting international coal elimination and fossil fuel non-proliferation treaties.

They stress that all climate-related actions must be grounded in equity and social justice, noting that extreme weather and other climate impacts are being disproportionately felt by the poorest people, who have contributed the least to climate change.

Prof. Petteri Taalas, the Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization, delivered the opening address at the WCRP Open Science Conference (#WCRP2023). In his speech, he presented several key findings about the #StateofClimate to inform discussions in Kigali this week. WMO Facebook

A new multi-agency report, United in Science 2023, coordinated by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) states:

The annual report combines input and expertise from 18 organizations.

Commenting UN Secretary-General António Guterres said:

“2023 has shown all too clearly that climate change is here. Record temperatures are scorching the land and heating the sea, as extreme weather causes havoc around the globe. While we know this is just the beginning, the global response is falling far short. Meanwhile, halfway to the 2030 deadline for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the world is woefully off-track.

“Science is central to solutions. It is widely understood that weather, climate, and water-related sciences provide the underpinnings for climate action. But it is less recognized how these sciences can supercharge progress on the SDGs across the board.”

WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas added:

“At this pivotal moment in history, the halfway mark to achieving the SDGs, the science community stands united in the effort to achieve prosperity for people and the planet.

“Groundbreaking scientific and technological advances, such as high-resolution climate modelling, artificial intelligence and nowcasting, can catalyse transformation to achieve the SDGs. And achieving Early Warnings for All by 2027 will not only save lives and livelihoods but also help safeguard sustainable development.”

Weather predictions can help to boost food production and move  closer to zero hunger. Integrating epidemiology and climate information helps to understand and anticipate those diseases sensitive to climate. Early-warning systems help to reduce poverty by giving people the chance to prepare and limit the impact.

Between 1970 and 2021, there were nearly 12 000 reported disasters from weather, climate and water extremes, causing over 2 million deaths and US$ 4.3 trillion in economic losses. Over 90% of these reported deaths and 60% of economic losses occurred in developing economies, undermining sustainable development.

See also: Island Nations Come Together to Speak with One Voice #ClimateChange

So far, there has been very limited progress in reducing the emissions gap for 2030 – the gap between the emissions reductions promised by countries and the emissions reductions needed to achieve the temperature goal of the Paris Agreement. Fossil fuel CO2 emissions increased 1% globally in 2022 compared to 2021 and preliminary estimates from January-June 2023 show a further 0.3% rise.

To get on track to meet the Paris Agreement goals of limiting warming to well below 2 °C and preferably 1.5 °C, global greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by 30% and 45%, respectively, by 2030, with carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions getting close to net zero by 2050. This will require large-scale, rapid and systemic transformations.

Fiona Grahame

2 replies »

  1. Yesterday evening I saw an ad. on the television for a Cruise. There was an image of a BIG liner, ploughing its way through water full of lumps of ice, past cliffs of ice and land covered in Penguins.
    Presumably the people on these cruises don’t see the irony.
    Worse still – maybe they don’t care.

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