Going Into COP27, Climate Science Has Never Been More Precise
As global leaders prepare to meet at COP27, the stakes have never been higher. But as the intensity and impact of disasters driven by climate change accelerates, so does the accuracy of climate science. Increasingly, sophisticated modeling and monitoring systems can give us a precise account of what’s going wrong, and what we can do about it.
UN: António Guterres | Emissions Gap Report 2022 Message, October 27, 2022.
UN: WMO | Greenhouse Gas Bulletin | "We have again broken new records," October 26, 2022.
The most recent IPCC report, for example, found if average temperatures rise from 1.5 to 3 degrees Celsius, extinction rates among terrestrial organisms would almost double, while extreme flood risk would quadruple. Meanwhile, a recent NASA project used a mineral dust tool from the International Space Station to locate 50 methane 'super-emitters,’ a discovery that can help regulators track down and stop leaks of this particularly potent greenhouse gas.
BBC: Reverse climate change or "we are doomed” warns United Nations, October 26, 2022.
PBS: What Will Earth Look Like When These 6 Tipping Points Hit?, September 6, 2022.
The Economist: See what three degrees of global warming looks like, October 30, 2021.
Moreover, more data modeling tools are becoming publicly accessible. A new tool created by researchers at Climate Central -- the Climate Shift Index -- compiles long-term data and climate models to show how the temperature at any place on any certain day was made more or less likely by global warming. Using the data, researchers found that climate change shifted temperatures for 96% of the world’s population.
Researchers hope the tool will help increase public awareness of temperature rise. "There were events in other places [last year] that didn’t get the same level of attention, even though they had arguably as much or more of an impact on people,” Andrew Pershing, the director of climate science at Climate Central, told TIME
Climate Central: Global Climate Shift Index, October 24, 2022.
BBC: Deadly heatwaves '100 times more likely’ due to climate change, May 18, 2022.
MSNBC: Chris Hayes | We Must Pay Attention To 'Urgent Crisis’ Of Extreme Heat Events, May 23, 2022.
BBC: Past seven years hottest on record, EU satellite data shows, January 10, 2022.
Why This Matters
Increasingly accurate scientific research allows us to attribute more intense extreme weather disasters to climate change. In the US, in the first three quarters of 2022, the US has experienced 15 billion-dollar natural disasters -- more than double the historical average of seven events per year. Hurricane Ian, for example, one of the costliest and most deadly weather events in recent US history, was super-charged by climate change, which added at least 10% more rain to the storm.
Grantham Imperial: Dr Friederike Otto speaks to BBC World News about the heatwaves, 18 July 2022, July 19, 2022.
Grantham Imperial: Dr Friederike Otto speaks to CNN's Connect the World about the extreme heat, 18 July 2022, July 19, 2022.
Democracy Now: Stronger & Wetter | Michael Mann on How Climate Change Makes Storms Worse & Why We Must Cut Emissions, May 10, 2022.
Meanwhile, severe droughts followed by flooding are becoming increasingly common around the globe. So are extreme heatwaves. UNICEF found that by 2050, over 2 billion children on earth will be subject to extreme, frequent heat waves, even in a "low-emission scenario” where the world warms by just 1.7 degrees. As Jeremy J. Miller writes for TIME, "The data is clear -- no region or nation is immune from the ravages of climate change. The question is whether we can act quickly enough to head off planetary disaster.”
Europe in particular is experiencing the most rapid warming on the plant. A new report by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) found that temperatures have increased 0.5 degrees Celsius every decade from 1991 to 2021 -- that’s more than twice the global average.
Guardian: Pakistan floods affect 33 million people as national emergency declared, August 26, 2022.
CBS: Climate change elevating risk of dangerous weather, July 25, 2022.
CBS: More than 120 million Americans face extreme heat, July 22, 2022.
DW: Floods, drought and the consequences of extreme weather (Documentary), July 26, 2022.
Using The Science To Take Action
More precise data about climate change can also guide more precise paths towards action on behalf of historically less industrialized countries. One new study, for instance, found that the tropics and the global south bear almost all of the economic burden of extreme heat, which totals at about $16 trillion since the 1990s.
Previously, most studies of the economic effects of extreme heat had been based on averages, which hide the localized, temporary nature of these events, and how they, in turn affect human behavior. As Christopher Callahan, lead author of the study, told the Guardian, heat corresponds to "increased interpersonal aggression, increased rates of workplace injury, and reduced mental performance.”
World Resources Institute: What we need for a successful COP27, October 7, 2022.
ABC: Hurricane Ian expected to cost Florida $258 billion, September 29, 2022.
PBS: The economic impacts of unchecked climate change, July 23, 2022.
PBS: Report shows devastating economic impact of rising sea levels along American coast, September 14, 2022.
The ozone layer is a particularly pertinent example of the importance of heeding scientific warnings. After scientists warned the public of the growing hole in the ozone layer in the 1980s, governments regulated the use of harmful chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and helped put it on the path to recovery. While this progress has since been undermined by super-emitting wildfires in the western US, science, public activism, international diplomacy, and collective action all helped to address the ozone hole.
Seeker: Scientists Can Now Prove That Climate Change Is Causing Natural Disasters, November 25, 2020.
TED: Ilissa Ocko | The fastest way to slow climate change now, January 15, 2022.
VICE: What Are the Solutions to the Climate Crisis? | Planet A, January 17, 2022.
TED: Fossil fuel companies know how to stop global warming. Why don't they? | Myles Allen, December 4, 2020.