Climate scientists warn Earth systems heading for ‘dangerous instability’


(NEW YORK) — Forecasts about the negative effects of human-caused climate change are not uncommon, but new research published Tuesday makes even more dire claims, declaring that “life on planet Earth is under siege” and that “we are pushing our planetary systems into dangerous instability.”

The study, titled “The 2023 State of the Climate Report: Entering Uncharted Territory” and published in the journal Bioscience, points to specific climate events in 2023 to support its findings, including exceptional heat waves across the globe, historic and record-breaking warm ocean temperatures, and unprecedented low levels of sea ice surrounding Antarctica.

The 12 international scientists who created the report indicated that in so far in 2023, there have been 38 days with global average temperatures more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Europe’s Copernicus Climate Change Service earlier this month indicated that 2023 will likely go on record as the hottest year ever recorded.

What’s more, the highest average Earth surface temperature ever recorded was in July, according to the report, which also notes that may be the highest surface temperate the Earth has experienced in the last 100,000 years.

The research team, which included scientists from the United States, Australia, Germany, Brazil, the United Kingdom, China, and the Netherlands, says that anthropogenic global heating – meaning global heating caused or amplified by humans – is the key driver in recent extreme climate events. The team also took into account that some of these events are complex and are at least partially driven by non-human factors, including water vapor effects from an underwater volcano, as well as dust from Africa, and the El Niño global climate pattern.

The researchers also point to “minimal progress” by humanity to stop the impacts of anthropogenic climate change. “Although the consumption of renewable energy (solar and wind) grew a robust 17% between 2021 and 2022, it remains roughly 15 times lower than fossil fuel energy consumption,” the report states.

“Without actions that address the root problem of humanity taking more from the Earth than it can safely give, we’re on our way to the potential partial collapse of natural and socioeconomic systems and a world with unbearable heat and shortages of food and fresh water,” declares report co-lead author William Ripple, from the Oregon State University College of Forestry.

“Life on our planet is clearly under siege,” said Ripple.

The authors says action must be taken now to avert further extreme climate impacts: “[T]o mitigate these past emissions and stop global warming, efforts must be directed toward eliminating emissions from fossil fuels and land-use change and increasing carbon sequestration with nature-based climate solutions.”

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