The Hottest on Record?

Image by Eelco Böhtlingk.

Scientists are warning that this year could be the warmest in over 100,000 years, indicating a trend that points dangerously to even hotter temperatures in the future and spelling even further disaster. The world has warmed 1.2 degrees Celsius (2.2 degrees Fahrenheit) since the mid-19th century, and shows no sign of slowing.

Human-generated greenhouse gas emissions have been causing extreme weather events from tornadoes, hurricanes and extreme drought to massive flooding and forest fires. The world is experiencing one natural disaster after another. Massive forest fires in Hawaii, Canada, and Australia, and unimaginable flooding in Libya has killed thousands of people combined.

The World Meteorological Organization published a Tweet on X saying, “It was the warmest October on record by a HUGE margin, says @CopernicusECMWF. 5th straight month of extraordinary heat. 2023 is almost certain to be the warmest year on record. WMO will release provisional #StateofClimate 2023 report 30 Nov at #COP28.”

The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), an independent intergovernmental organisation, research institute and a 24/7 operational service producing and disseminating numerical weather predictions to its 35 Member States has bad news.

Earth is warming up and we aren’t doing enough to stop it fast enough to prevent catastrophic and irreversible damage.

With oceans warming and becoming less effective at counteracting and absorbing the effects of global warming, the world is fast losing its best weapon to fight climate change.

At the COP27 international climate summit last year, leaders agreed to establish the “loss and damage” fund. Unfortunately, the 2022 agreement left many practical details unresolved and hopefully it can be ratified at this year’s COP28 summit, set to begin later in November.

Under the agreement, the World Bank would host the fund on an interim basis, while governance would fall to a board comprised of developed and developing countries, with decisions requiring a four-fifths majority.

Rachel Cleetus, the policy director and lead economist for the Climate and Energy Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, criticized the agreement as tilted toward wealthy countries.

The COP28 climate change summit is expected to be attended by a host of world leaders and high-profile public figures — including Pope Francis and King Charles III.

Expected to be held in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, COP28 will see governments, businesses, and NGO’s review how they can work harder to meet the goals of the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement.

Now, a three-year drought has left millions of people in Syria, Iraq and Iran with little water due to hotter-than-normal temperatures evaporating the little rainfall that has fallen.

“Wealthy nations also steamrolled developing countries into accepting a lopsided compromise to locate the fund at the World Bank, an institution with a donor-driven lending model and an undemocratic governance structure that raises serious concerns about its ability to host the Loss and Damage Fund,” Cleetus said in a written statement.

New research published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B explains that the cheetah, which is normally a daytime hunter, could avoid extreme heat by hunting at night. This move could cause increased competition among nocturnal predators that hunt at night.

At the same time, on the other side of the globe, beavers are expanding their range in the Arctic, creating dams and flooding vegetation and causing methane buildup, according to The Wildlife Society.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) said that while a transformative shift in how the planet is powered was underway, more effort would be required to hit the 1.5 degrees goal.

The IEA issued a statement saying, “As things stand, demand for fossil fuels is set to remain far too high to keep within reach the Paris Agreement goal of limiting the rise in average global temperatures to 1.5 °C.”

The IEA’s report said its Stated Policies Scenario was now “associated with a temperature rise of 2.4 °C in 2100 (with a 50% probability).”

This is sobering news but there is reason to believe progress can be made.

At the COP28 gathering, the attending nations can and should focus on several key aspects that will place the world on track by the year 2030 and keep the still-realistic goal of 1.5 °C alive.

According to the IEA, “Tripling renewable energy capacity, doubling the pace of energy efficiency improvements to 4% per year, ramping up electrification and slashing methane emissions from fossil fuel operations together provide more than 80% of the emissions reductions needed by 2030 to put the energy sector on a pathway to limit warming to 1.5 °C. In addition, innovative, large-scale financing mechanisms are required to support clean energy investments in emerging and developing economies, as are measures to ensure an orderly decline in the use of fossil fuels, including an end to new approvals of unabated coal-fired power plants.”

“Every country needs to find its own pathway, and it needs to be inclusive and equitable to secure public acceptance,” the IEA said.

It will be incumbent on every country to clarify the next steps they intend to implement, and the bar should be set to a realistic level.

The cheetahs and beavers are not the only organisms on Earth that will suffer irreversible damage if we fail.

Chloe Atkinson is a climate change activist and consultant on global climate affairs.