A confronting graph has laid bare what 24 days of record global temperatures looks like as July is on track to be the hottest month in recorded history.
It comes as United Nations chief Antonio Guterres made the alarming statement: “The era of global warming has ended; the era of global boiling has arrived.”
Professor Eliot Jacobson, a retired mathematician in the US with a passion for climate science, posted the graph on Twitter, writing: “We humans have some amazing talents, not least of which is our ability to cause global suffering.”
It has been viewed almost 100,000 times.
The graph struck a chord with many people concerned about the planet’s future and world leaders’ collective action on climate change.
“Food security should be an urgent policy question, not Barbie, Hunter Biden, or Mitch McConnell’s frozen moment,” one person wrote, referring to big entertainment and political stories in the US this week.
“Human or geothermal or climate change or weather or whatever you want to call it. You gotta pay attention to this,” another warned.
“We’re literally killing the future of our children and grandchildren,” added a third.
“@AlboMP [Anthony Albanese] … might want to rethink your climate change policies,” a concerned Australian added.
2023 has already seen the hottest June on record.
Climate Council research director Dr Simon Bradshaw told news.com.au the extreme fires and heatwaves in the northern hemisphere showed that Australia “absolutely” needed to prepare for what could be a difficult few months here.
“Especially as we head into an El Nino period,” he added, referring to the climate driver that often brings hotter and drier conditions.
Dr Bradshaw said “we are living in an age of consequences” and here in Australia we were “vulnerable to these escalating impacts”.
While what we are seeing in the northern hemisphere is “certainly alarming”, Dr Bradshaw said it was vital we don’t lose hope.
“We need to use this as a reason to do everything possible to drive down emissions, move quickly beyond fossil fuels and limit future harms to protect communities in Australia and worldwide,” he said.
He also urged people to remember there were real human stories of suffering, including lives and homes lost, behind these “confronting” numbers.
Searing heat intensified by global warming has affected tens of millions of people in parts of Europe, Asia and North America this month, combining with fierce wildfires that have scorched across Canada and parts of southern Europe.
“Climate change is here. It is terrifying. And it is just the beginning,” said UN chief Guterres, urging immediate and bold action to cut planet-heating emissions.
“The era of global warming has ended; the era of global boiling has arrived.”
With the first three weeks of July already registering global average temperatures above any comparative period, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and Europe’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) said it is “extremely likely” that July 2023 will be the hottest month on records going back to the 1940s.
Carlo Buontempo, Director of C3S, said the temperatures in the period had been “remarkable”, with an anomaly so large that scientists are confident the record has been shattered even before the month ends.
Beyond these official records, he said proxy data for the climate going back further – like tree rings or ice cores – suggests the temperatures seen in the period could be “unprecedented in our history in the last few thousand years”.
Possibly even longer “on the order of 100,000 years” he said.
About 1.2 degrees Celsius of global warming since the late 1800s, driven by the burning of fossil fuels, has made heatwaves hotter, longer and more frequent, as well as intensifying other weather extremes like storms and floods.
Copernicus and WMO said global average sea surface temperatures, which have been well above those previously registered for the time of year since May, have contributed to the exceptionally warm July.
Buontempo said “a significant swathe” of the central Mediterranean is now close to or above all previous records.
Meanwhile, bathtub-like temperatures in the shallow waters off south Florida – topping 37.8C for several hours on Monday – potentially set a new world record and threatened coral reefs.
The WMO has said the eight years to 2022 were the warmest on record, despite the cooling effects of the La Nina weather pattern. That has now given way to the warming El Nino, although this is not expected to strengthen until later in the year.
The UN organisation predicts it is more likely than not that global temperatures will temporarily rise 1.5C above the pre-industrial benchmark for at least one of the next five years.
They stress, however, that this would not mark a permanent breach of the 1.5C limit set out in the Paris Agreement, which refers to long-term warming.
Scientists say the world will need to adapt to the heat and other impacts already caused by emissions – and that carbon pollution must be slashed dramatically this decade to avoid worse in the future.
“The extreme weather which has affected many millions of people in July is unfortunately the harsh reality of climate change and a foretaste of the future,” said World Meteorological Organisation’s Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.
“The need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is more urgent than ever before. Climate action is not a luxury but a must.”
This week scientists from the World Weather Attribution group found that the heatwaves in parts of Europe and North America would have been almost impossible without climate change.
– with AFP