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According to scientists, 2023 will be remembered as the year when humanity demonstrated its inability to effectively address the climate crisis.
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According to scientists, 2023 will be remembered as the year when humanity demonstrated its inability to effectively address the climate crisis.

Leading experts have expressed concerns about humanity’s capability to address a climate emergency caused by its actions, citing the recent record-breaking year as evidence.

As the world experienced record-breaking temperatures in late December, James Hansen, a former NASA scientist, stated to the Guardian that the year 2023 will be marked as the time when failures were recognized.

According to him, future generations will view this year and the next as a significant turning point in the history of human-caused climate change. This is due to the realization of the ineffectiveness of government efforts in addressing this issue.

Governments not only failed to slow down global warming, but the rate of global warming actually increased.

Following what was likely the warmest July in 120,000 years, Hansen, whose 1988 testimony to the US Senate is widely recognized as the initial prominent disclosure of global warming, cautioned that the world is heading towards a “new climate frontier” with temperatures surpassing any in the past million years.

Hansen, who currently serves as the director of the climate program at Columbia University’s Earth Institute in New York, stated that the most promising solution is a change in leadership among generations.

“The positive aspect of this distinct division is that it may lead young individuals to recognize the importance of taking control of their own future. The chaotic state of current politics could present potential openings,” he stated.

James Hansen poses for a photograph with his arms crossed

Experts are expressing disappointment at the significant gap between scientific alerts and political efforts, as reflected in his remarks. It has taken nearly three decades for global leaders to recognize the role of fossil fuels in the climate emergency. However, the recent United Nations Cop28 summit in Dubai concluded with a weak and ambiguous plea to move away from them, despite mounting evidence of dangerous levels of global warming.

Researchers are currently analyzing data from this extremely hot year. The most recent report declaring it a record came from the Japanese meteorological agency, who recorded temperatures in 2023 to be 0.53C higher than the global average between 1991 and 2020.

The current temperature is significantly higher than the record set in 2016, which was 0.35C above the average. In the bigger picture, the world is approximately 1.2C warmer than it was during preindustrial times.

According to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, there is a high probability of over 99% that 2023 will be the hottest year on record based on its 174-year dataset. This prediction comes after six consecutive months of record high temperatures, including the warmest summer and fall in the northern hemisphere.

Due to the effects of human-induced climate change and El Niño, the high temperatures persisted without easing. In the month of November, there was a significant deviation from the preindustrial average, with two days reaching temperatures 2C above. This data was reported by Europe’s Copernicus Climate Change Service.

A firefighter runs away from flames while trying to extinguish a wildfire

The World Meteorological Organization has also confirmed that the annual record has already been broken. In December, numerous regions experienced the hottest Christmas on record. As the new year began, monthly temperature records continued to be surpassed in central Asia, South America, Europe, and Australia.

According to Berkeley Earth, the average temperature in 2023 is expected to be 1.5C higher than preindustrial levels. While climate patterns are typically measured in decades rather than years, several experts believe it is likely that the world will surpass the most ambitious goal of the Paris agreement.

Experienced individuals who closely monitor the climate have been deeply disturbed by the rapid rate of transformation. According to Prof Johan Rockström, co-director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, the climate in 2023 has been exceptionally alarming, with extreme events such as heatwaves, droughts, floods, and fires occurring frequently. He also noted concerning trends such as melting ice and abnormal ocean temperatures.

He stated that these recent advancements suggest that the Earth is facing unfamiliar challenges and is under attack. This implies that after 250 years of increased human impact on the planet, we may now be experiencing a reversal of roles where the Earth is sending back consequences to the surface where humans reside, through extreme and unprecedented events.

Leaders at the Cop28 conference applauding

Rockstrom was one of the writers of the 2018 paper titled “Hothouse Earth”. This paper raised concerns about a potential chain reaction of melting ice, rising sea levels, and dying forests that could push the planet into a state where human attempts to decrease emissions will have limited impact.

After a period of five years, he mentioned that the most concerning issue in 2023 was the significant rise in ocean temperatures, which were unusually sudden even for an El Niño year.

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“We are unable to comprehend the reason for the significant rise in ocean temperature, and we lack knowledge of its potential repercussions in the future,” he stated. “Could this be an indication of a major change in the ocean’s state, or is it simply an unusual anomaly?”

Scientists in Antarctica are concerned about the speed of change in the region. They have recently installed a solar and wind-powered research facility called Criosfera 2, which collects meteorological data. This facility recorded the lowest levels of sea ice in both summer and winter.

Francisco Eliseu Aquino, a professor of climatology and oceanography at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul and the deputy director of Brazil’s polar and climatic centre, stated that this environmental alert is an indication of ongoing changes in the global environment and presents a formidable obstacle for polar scientists to clarify.

During the austral winter, West Antarctica experienced multiple heatwaves due to the arrival of atmospheric rivers from land. In July, a group from Chile recorded an exceptional occurrence of rain on King George Island, located at the northern end of the Antarctic peninsula, during a time when snowfall is typically anticipated.

In January, a huge block of ice, approximately 1,500 square kilometers in size, separated from the Brunt ice shelf in the Weddell Sea. This marked the third significant breaking off of ice in the same area within the past three years.

According to Aquino, the burning of fossil fuels by humans has caused alarming interactions between the polar regions and the tropics. This has resulted in extreme weather conditions, such as the combination of cold fronts from Antarctica and intense heat and dryness in the Amazon, leading to unprecedented storms. In early September, 51 people died in floods in southern Brazil, and similar destructive floods occurred again in mid-November.

Aquino stated that the recent “record record” was just a preview of what is to come as the world continues to experience alarming levels of warming. He expressed that moving forward, we will have a clear understanding of the consequences of flirting with a 1.5C increase in global average temperature, which will result in new records for disasters.

This is already happening. This year’s deadliest climate disaster was the flood in Libya that killed more than 11,300 people in the coastal city of Derna. In a single day, Storm Daniel unleashed 200 times as much rain as usually falls on the city in the entire month of September. Human-induced climate change made this up to 50 times more likely.

Pictures are displayed with mountains in the background

The Canadian and European regions experienced a significant increase in forest fires, while a wildfire in Lahaina on Maui island resulted in the deaths of approximately 100 individuals. This fire, which occurred in August, was the deadliest in US history. Additionally, the US surpassed its previous annual record for billion-dollar disasters by August, with a total of 23 occurrences.

According to Raul Cordero, a professor specializing in climate at both the University of Groningen and the University of Santiago, the heat experienced this year is having widespread impacts throughout South America. These include extreme water scarcity in Uruguay, unprecedented wildfires in Chile, the worst drought in the Amazon basin in half a century, prolonged electricity shortages in Ecuador due to reduced hydropower, and higher shipping costs along the Panama Canal due to decreased water levels.

According to Cordero, there is a prediction that El Niño will decrease in strength in the next year. However, it is expected that temperatures above average or even record-breaking will continue for at least the next three months.

According to scientific evidence, the Earth’s temperatures will continue to increase as long as humans continue to use fossil fuels and deforest.

In the coming years, the abnormally high temperatures and disasters of 2023 will eventually become the expected standard, and will be remembered as one of the milder and more predictable years in people’s lives. As Hansen cautioned, without significant and swift changes, the climate system will be inherently flawed.

Source: theguardian.com