The seas are the temperature of bath water and the land is baking. This year the rise the global temperature in June already passed the 1.5C limit compared to the 1850-1900 base set in the Paris Accords as the upper limit for global warming. As bne IntelliNews has reported, the climate crisis is here and the ecosystem is starting to collapse.
Several reports have raised the alarm and said that while it is not too late, time is running out fast and the actions needed to prevent temperatures rising above the 1.5C limit already need to be dramatic. The UN’s recent global stocktake report, the most comprehensive study of climate change that will also be used as the basis of the upcoming COP28 meeting in November, was specific that there are two years left to act and trillions of dollars need to be invested in order to stave off disaster. Likewise, another report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) said that earth’s energy imbalance (EEI), the excess amounts of energy the earth absorbs from the sun, has doubled between 2005 and 2015. The planet is literally starting to cook.
Leon Simons, a board member of the Club of Rome and climate expert, has released a scary string of charts recently that show temperatures are at record breaking levels across the board.
“Do people understand how crazy it is that these temperature records are being shattered SIMULTANEOUSLY and CONTINUOUSLY for months [this year],” said Simons in a tweet. “If the extreme weather around the world is shocking to you now, hold onto your hats. 2023 is just a warmup.”
This summer has been plagued by heatwaves, flash flooding and devastating storms, fuelled by record breaking high temperatures.
Globally temperatures in June, July and August were 0.66 degrees Celsius above the average between 1991 and 2020, according to Europe’s Earth observation agency Copernicus. Last month was the warmest August on record globally and the second-warmest month ever — only after July 2023.
“Efforts to reduce humanity’s carbon footprint are still not enough to slow the pace of climate change, with global emissions hitting a record in 2022. This year is on track to be one of the hottest, with the first eight months of the year ranking second-warmest, only 0.01C below frontrunner 2016,” the EU says.
In the Northern Hemisphere Surface Air Temperature Anomaly has been increasing steadily vs the long-term record levels and was +1.43°C above the 1979-2000 mean as of September 27 -- already close to the 1.5C threashold.
Europe has almost run out of local olive oil supplies and is set for more shortages, after extreme weather damaged harvests for a second year, The Guardian reported last week, as one example out of many. Greece’s entire agricultural production has been decimated for at least five years after huge flash floods flooded the Thessalian plain in August, that accounts for 40% of the country’s land in what has probably been the most server climate related disaster this year in Europe.
Just across the Mediterranean, Medicane Storm Daniel killed at least 11,300 people and displaced another 43,000 after causing two damns to bust and wash half of the town of Derna away in a few hours one of the country’s worst natural disasters ever, that was also a result of the extrme temperatures.
Climatologist Leon Simons shared a number of charts that show the extent temperature all-time record highs were being broken this summer on a daily basis.
This summer has seen India suffer for a second year from extreme heatwaves where temperature rose above 60C in some regions – close to the maximum that human life can tolerate – and has led to widespread crop failures or reduced yields. This summer India’s Burger King franchise took tomatoes off the menu after the local tomato cropped failed sending prices through the roof.
The weather has had such a dramatic impact on yields that India banned the export of rice, sparking a growing rice crisis in Asia. India is the world’s largest producer of rice, and while there are no shortages yet, prices have already begun to climate, adding to the general food crisis that has been exacerbated by the embargo on Ukraine’s grain exports.
Heat waves in India threaten to make parts of the country unlivable in summer.
Likewise, Brazil, another food export powerhouse, has also been plagued by heatwaves this year, caused by a “heat dome”, a high pressure system that settles over a region and traps heat in. Brazil was hit by record temperatures of almost 42°C in August – almost the same temperature as the Sahara desert -- despite still being in winter. The rare heatwave engulfed 19 of Brazil's 26 states, as well as the capital of Brasilia, according to the National Meteorological Institute. A month earlier, Brazil experienced its hottest July since official measurements began in 1961, reflecting the global record, with the average temperature measuring 23°C.
Colin McCarthy, who operates the extreme weather monitoring platform U.S. Stormwatch, shared radar images projecting the heat wave, with large swathes of dark red descending on South America.
The Paris Accords limit of 1.5C has already been breached this year – skipping over 1.3C and 1.4C stages – although experts say the temperatures would have to stay above 1.5C for a while before anyone is prepared to say Paris has already failed.
“This year has been the first time that global surface air temperatures have exceeded the pre-industrial level by more than 1.5⁰C during the month of June, the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) said in a report in September.
The break is a “good indicator of how fast we are approaching the 1.5⁰C threshold set in the Paris Agreement,” C3S said.
“Despite being the first time this limit has been surpassed in June, this is not the first time that the daily global average temperature rise has been above the 1.5⁰C level,” C3S said. “This threshold was first exceeded during December 2015, and exceeded repeatedly in the winters and springs of 2016 and 2020. Additionally, it is important to note that the 1.5°C limit established by the Paris Agreement is not yet surpassed, as it was set for changes in twenty or thirty-year averages, not for brief periods of time such as days or months.”
A deeper analysis of the placement of early June temperatures within the historical record can be found in this article, C3S said and will publish an analysis for the whole month of June in its upcoming monthly bulletin.
“Is a temperature of +1.7°C [above the baseline] possible in 2024? The first time daily and monthly values ever passed +1.5°C was during the very strong El Niño in 2015-2016. What happens if the current El Niño is as strong?” asks Simons, referring to the weather phenomena that heats this seas that is about to kick in this autumn.
Oceans are a hot tub
Seas around the world are also the temperature of bath water as they too are reaching record highs.
Buoys off the coast of Florida have been measuring water temperatures in the 32.2C — creating an environment that’s supercharging hurricanes like Lee and killing the coral.
After most of the world's magafauna, corals will be amongst the first to go because of humans, but not the last, says Simons. The elkhorn and staghorn coral bleach in florida area already begun to die over the past few months. Both the wild and restored colonies have been mostly lost throughout the Florida Keys already.
Meanwhile, temperatures in the North Atlantic breached a new record of 25.19C on August 31. Even the Mediterranean Sea has seen unprecedented temperatures this year when temperature hit 28.7C (83.7F) at the start of August, supercharging storms like Daniel.
After the official declaration of the start of El Niño and last month’s record sea-surface temperatures, the first eleven days of September registered the highest temperatures on record for this time of the year, C3S reports.
A severe marine heatwave near Japan has been ongoing for the last several months, with sea surface temperatures currently up to 8°C (14.4°F) above normal. This is not just a local issue. Both global ocean heat content and sea surface temperatures have reached their highest levels in Earth's recorded history in 2023, according to Colin McMarthy, a climate activist.
And things could get worse in the next few months. As bne IntelliNews has extensively reported, many emerging markets in Asia and Latin America are already preparing for server reduction in agricultural outputs this year, due to the effect this year’s El Niño is expected to have on crop yields as seas become hotter still. Africa is the most exposed of all the countries of the world to El Niño effects. Ethiopia is currently reportedly the world’s hottest inhabited place.