Has the climate crisis entered a new and accelerated phase of destruction?

Rising heat waves, wildfires and unprecedented floods around the world have raised an alarming question for the year 2023. These natural disasters threaten lives in the United States, Europe, India, China and elsewhere. Have humanity's relentless carbon emissions finally pushed the climate crisis into a new, accelerating phase of destruction?

Debate on this issue is intense, and accusations of pessimism are countered by accusations of complacency. The importance lies in finding an answer: what is the real severity of the problem and how can we minimize the negative effects of the climate crisis? To answer this question, The Guardian newspaper spoke to 45 scientific experts in the field of climate from different parts of the world. In addition, the equally important question of whether extreme weather events were impacting people more quickly and strongly than expected was also raised.

Scientists have informed us that, despite the apparent alarm generated by recent events, the global warming observed so far is fully consistent with scientific predictions made over three decades. Even if they proved them right, he couldn't completely console them, as until now his warnings had mostly been ignored.

Over the past few decades, scientific projections of the climate crisis have been robust and reliable. Unfortunately, humanity's persistence in emitting increasing amounts of greenhouse gases has also been evident.

Scientists have long been warning about the possibility of more extreme climate impacts. However, the speed and intensity with which these changes are materializing has frightened many. Unusual sea temperatures and the loss of sea ice in Antarctica were classified as shocking phenomena.

Has the Climate Crisis entered a new stage?

According to experts, the feeling of entering a new era of devastation is due to the return of the natural phenomenon known as El Niño. This event has temporarily accelerated the global warming process. An additional aspect was the experience of many people who encountered unprecedented extreme weather conditions, as the effects of climate change began to clearly differ from the climate to which they were accustomed.

Scientists were aware that the world had not yet reached a "tipping point" toward runaway climate change. However, some warned that this point is getting closer as global warming continues.

Scientists have warned that the extreme weather we have experienced in recent months is just a small taste of what is to come. They are predicting even more serious impacts in the future. If drastic measures are not taken to curb climate change, the extraordinary events that occurred in 2023 could become commonplace in just ten years. It is vitally important to increase action against the climate crisis to combat this problem and avoid even more devastating consequences. Some experts also noted that the tendency of climate models to underestimate extreme weather is worrying, as this means we are moving towards an uncertain and potentially more catastrophic future than expected.

Dr. Shaina Sadai of the Union of Concerned Scientists of the United States said: “This year has been unsettling for severe, unrelenting and unprecedented heat, but it is in line with what scientists and climate models have predicted for years. a long time".

"Temperature rise has particularly accelerated since the 1960s [as emissions accelerated] and continues to rise steadily," said Professor Jana Sillmann, of the University of Hamburg in Germany.

Scientists have stated that there is no evidence of a sudden new acceleration

"[Global] warming is remarkably stable, and that's bad enough," said Professor Michael Mann of the University of Pennsylvania in the United States. “There is no reason to invent an 'acceleration' that is not there to justify the urgency. “The impacts of warming justify the urgency.”

"An increase in temperatures was expected when we switched to El Niño," said Dr. Mika Rantanen of the Finnish Meteorological Institute in Helsinki.

In recent months, we have witnessed some amazing changes. On the one hand, we have seen unprecedented ocean temperatures, which is a cause for concern due to its possible effects on marine ecosystems. On the other hand, a record extent of sea ice has been recorded in Antarctica.

"Oscillations from year to year due to natural variability mean that global temperatures are increasing like a staircase, rather than a straight line, and we are seeing great progress so far this year," said Professor Julie Arblaster, from Monash University. Australia. "Some of the changes seen in recent months have been quite dramatic, from record-breaking ocean temperatures to record sea ice extent in Antarctica."

Scientists warn that the increase in extreme climate impacts is worrying for the future, as gas emissions continue to be released into the atmosphere. “Unfortunately, these new records will not last. “Global warming will push records into the unknown sooner rather than later,” said Dr. Raúl Cordero, until recently at the University of Santiago, Chile.

The climate crisis is felt

"July has been the hottest month in human history and people around the world are suffering the consequences," said Professor Piers Forster of the University of Leeds, UK. “But this is what we expected with [this level] of warming. “This will be the average summer in 10 years unless the world cooperates and puts climate action at the top of the agenda.”

Many of the scientists were direct about our future prospects. Professor Natalie Mahowald of Cornell University, US, said: "What we are seeing this year is just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, of what we expect to happen." Meinshausen said: “If we don't stop global warming soon, the extreme events we will see this year will pale in comparison to those to come.”

Let's stop burning fossil fuels

The scientists who responded to The Guardian were absolutely clear about how to achieve this. "We need to stop burning fossil fuels," Otto said. "Now, not at a time when we've allowed companies to make as much money as possible." Some experts have pointed out that the world is in a critical situation to stop the extraction of fossil fuels and urgent measures need to be taken. In addition, there is a need to stop new exploration projects in order to reduce the environmental impact and promote more sustainable energy sources.

Sadai said the dramatic growth of carbon emissions since 1990 was “largely due to the lack of control of the fossil fuel industry and the campaign of delays and misinformation they created over several decades.”

“Anyone who in any way perpetuates the fossil fuel era, deforestation or any of the other drivers of climate change is firmly on the wrong side of history,” Shuckburgh said. Bhadwal put it very simply: “To make the Earth habitable for future generations, we must take drastic measures to reduce greenhouse gas concentrations.”

Success is possible, the scientists stressed. "Human actions still have the potential to determine the future course of the climate," said Dr. Swapna Panickal of the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology. "The window of opportunity is small, but it is still open," Cassou said.

"We have all the economic and technological tools to reduce emissions quickly," Meinshausen said. “That is why we need to elect governments that are willing to take the journey. The transition will happen simply for economic reasons (renewables are now cheaper than fossil fuels), but the question is whether it will happen fast enough.”

Vincent Ajayi, Associate Professor at the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Nigeria, said: “Governments must not just make empty promises, but must wholeheartedly commit to fulfilling their obligations to protect the future of our planet.” Canadell said: “Governments alone may not have the desire to manage such a fundamental and rapid transformation, but strong pressure from civil society could empower them.”

It is vital that we work towards a just and equitable transition in relation to climate change

Importantly, only a small percentage of the global population is responsible for the majority of greenhouse gas emissions.

Professor Paola Arias, from the University of Antioquia, Colombia, said that the transition must be fair for everyone: “We need, above all, a just and equitable transition. “A very small percentage of the human population is responsible for the majority of greenhouse gas emissions.”

Scientists have highlighted the importance of allowing people to adapt to the inevitable impacts of climate change, as well as addressing loss and damage caused in vulnerable countries. This approach seeks not only to recognize the reality of this phenomenon, but also to find solutions to mitigate its effects in those most susceptible places.

"Knowing that we will view today's extreme events as mild relative to what lies ahead is truly mind-blowing and hopefully serves as a wake-up call," Dutton said. "The speed at which we make this transition will define the future we will have."

"We cannot allow the devastation caused this summer by the climate crisis to become the new normal," Forster said.

With information theguardian.com