Life on planet Earth is under siege. We are now in an uncharted territory. For several decades, scientists have consistently warned of a future marked by extreme climatic conditions because of escalating global temperatures caused by ongoing human activities that release harmful greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. Unfortunately, time is up. We are seeing the manifestation of those predictions as an alarming and unprecedented succession of climate records are broken, causing profoundly distressing scenes of suffering to unfold. We are entering an unfamiliar domain regarding our climate crisis, a situation no one has ever witnessed firsthand in the history of humanity.
In the present report, we display a diverse set of vital signs of the planet and the potential drivers of climate change and climate-related responses first presented by Ripple and Wolf and colleagues, who declared a climate emergency, now with more than 15,000 scientist signatories. The trends reveal new all-time climate-related records and deeply concerning patterns of climate-related disasters. At the same time, we report minimal progress by humanity in combating climate change. Given these distressing developments, our goal is to communicate climate facts and policy recommendations to scientists, policymakers, and the public. It is the moral duty of us scientists and our institutions to clearly alert humanity of any potential existential threat and to show leadership in taking action. This report is part of our series of concise and easily accessible yearly updates on the state of the climate crisis.
In 2023, we witnessed an extraordinary series of climate-related records being broken around the world. The rapid pace of change has surprised scientists and caused concern about the dangers of extreme weather, risky climate feedback loops, and the approach of damaging tipping points sooner than expected. This year, exceptional heat waves have swept across the world, leading to record high temperatures. The oceans have been historically warm, with global and North Atlantic sea surface temperatures both breaking records and unprecedented low levels of sea ice surrounding Antarctica. In addition, June through August of this year was the warmest period ever recorded, and in early July, we witnessed Earth’s highest global daily average surface temperature ever measured, possibly the warmest temperature on Earth over the past 100,000 years. It is a sign that we are pushing our planetary systems into dangerous instability. [Continue reading…]