Climate change Snowballing effect of global warming might cause the end of civilisation as we know it as early as 2030

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2023 has been a disastrous year for global warming. Just look at the chart below. In the 80 years between 1942 and 2022 the average global temperature has increased from 15.4°C to 16.4°C. That's only 1 degree in 80 years, i.e. an average of +0.0125°C per year. But 2023 has seen a sudden rise of almost +0.4°C in a single year! That's a rate of warming 32 times faster than the last 80 years!

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To put in perspective, the world is trying to limit global warming to a range of +1.5°C to +2°C by 2100 compared to pre-industrial times. Yet, global temperatures have jumped 0.4°C just in 2023. In 2022 the world was +0.8°C above pre-industrial levels. We are now at +1.2°C. Hopefully that's just an anomaly and temperatures won't continue to rise as fast the following years, otherwise we will have exceeded the +1.5°C next year and the +2°C in two years' time.


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This video of The Economist shows what the world would look like at +3°C of global warming.


It is generally considered that a world 4°C warmer than pre-industrial levels would be unrecognisable and mostly unliveable for humans. The Amazon forest would turn into a giant desert, as would most of the USA, southern Europe, South Asia, Southeast Asia, China and Japan. All these regions would become uninhabitable (in yellow and brown in the map below). Land in red on the map would be lost to the rising sea levels. At +4°C, sea levels would be somewhere between 7 and 11 metres higher than today - enough to put all coastal cities under water.

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If the global temperatures keep increasing like at the same speed as in 2023 (+0.4°C), then we will reach +2°C of global warming in 2025, +3°C in 2028, and +4°C in 2030! That's in seven years!

Improbable, you would think. Indeed it's unlikely that temperatures keep rising as fast as this year. Unless temperatures have started a snowball effect in which:
  1. Extreme hot summers in Canada and Siberia, with temperatures over 35°C, cause uncontrollable forest fires, releasing tremendous quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere, which in turns accelerates global warming, which in turns causes always more wild fires every year.
  2. The permafrost in Siberia and Canada thaws, liberating vast quantities of underground methane into the atmosphere - methane that had accumulated over millions of years from the decomposition of trees. Methane is a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than CO2.
  3. The Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets are getting smaller, reflecting less sunlight into space, and therefore accelerating global warming each year.
It's undeniable that this snowball effect is already under way. The big question is whether this is what caused 2023 to be so hot, and if it's the trend we can expect for the coming years? I hope not, otherwise the end of civilisation as we know in is less than 10 years away!
 
According to Copernicus, the EU's Earth observation programme, both July and August 2023 were already 1.5°C warmer than the pre-industrial average.
 
Wildfires are affecting many parts of the world, but this year was special for the enormous land area burned in Canada, a region usually much less affected than those with a Mediterranean climate. Summer isn't over yet but an area bigger than England has already gone up in smoke only in Western Canada. That's triple the area of the last few years, which were already historical records.

Here is a snapshots of the active forest fires on 3rd September. As a reminder, the situation in June wasn't much brighter.
  • Out of control = Red symbols
  • Small = 0 to 100 Ha
  • Medium = 101 to 1000 Ha
  • Large = >1000 Ha
  • Being held = Yellow
  • Under control = Blue
  • Other = Orange
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According to the Wikpedia article on the 2023 Canadian wildfires, as of 5 September 2023, 6,167 fires had burned 164,665 square kilometres (63,578 sq mi; 40,690,000 acres), about five percent of the entire forest area of Canada and more than six times the long-term average of 2.65 million ha (6.5 million acres) for that time of the year. A much bigger swathe of forests have burned so far in Canada this year (165,000 km²) as in the whole world in 2022 (66,000 km²).

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The 2023 Canadian wildfires will surely exceed 400 megatonnes (400,000,000,000 kg) of CO2 released in the atmosphere. To put this in perspective, a car burning one litre of petrol/gasoline produces 2.3 kg of CO2, so the wildfires are the equivalent of burning 174 billion litres of petrol/gasoline! (that's 46 billion gallons of gasoline for Americans) An average European drives 6000 km per year? With a modern petrol car consuming 5l/100km, the yearly consumption would be about 300 litres. In other words, the Canadian wildfires this year have released the same amount of CO2 as 580 million drivers for a whole year! That's more than the number of drivers in all Europe, the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand put together! Needless to say that whatever drop in CO2 emissions was gained from renewable energy is insignificant in comparison to the CO2 added to the atmosphere by the Canadian wildfires alone. It's no wonder that global warming accelerated so much this year.

I am not optimistic for 2024 as this is when the effect of the coming winter's super El Niño will be felt. This charts shows as sea surface temperatures are already way out of range with previous years as El Niño is starting to build up.

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If I mistook in my calculations or in my reasoning please let me know. Actually I really hope that I mistook somewhere, because I cannot imagine the end of civilisation in 7 years. This is making me really anxious and depressed.
 
Most people associated El Niño with tropical storms. However, its effects vary depending on the regions. Usually South Asia, Southeast Asia, Southern Africa, and the Amazon forest are all drier during El Niño, so I expect that the coming El Niño is going to cause increased forest fires in these regions, which is will quickly raise atmospheric CO2 (keep in mind that the Canadian wildfires released as much CO2 in a few weeks as all cars in developed countries in a whole year) and amplify global warming further.
 
The lack of user response and interests in topics relating to climate change and the environment on this forum is alarming. But I am glad that at least I am not the only one who noticed the unexpected acceleration in global warming this year and the fact that the Paris Agreement target of +1.5°C of warming by 2030 will be missed. As a reminder, the Paris Agreement was signed by over 200 countries and obliged signatories to keep the rise in global temperatures “well within 2 degrees Celsius” and to aspire to limit the increase to 1.5°C.

BBC News: World will miss 1.5C warming limit - top UK expert

Professor Sir Bob Watson, former head of the UN climate body, told the BBC's Today programme he was "pessimistic".
The world agreed to try to limit the temperature increase due to climate change to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels at a UN conference in Paris in 2015. That target has become the centrepiece of global efforts to tackle climate change.

Climate scientists have been warning governments for years that they are not cutting their countries' emissions quickly enough to keep within this target.

But it is surprising for someone as senior and well respected as the former head of the UN climate science body the IPCC to be so frank that he believes it will be missed.
In the interview aired on Thursday he said: "I think most people fear that if we give up on the 1.5 [Celsius limit] which I do not believe we will achieve, in fact I'm very pessimistic about achieving even 2C, that if we allow the target to become looser and looser, higher and higher, governments will do even less in the future."

His comments although candid were supported by Lord Stern, Chairman of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, later on Thursday during an interview with BBC's WATO programme.

He said: "I think 1.5 is probably out of reach even if we accelerate quickly now, but we could bring it back if we start to bring down the cost of negative emissions and get better at negative emissions. Negative emissions means direct air capture of carbon dioxide."

I am surprised and frankly rather dismayed that the official stance of the United Nations is that the 1.5°C limit can still be reached by 2030, as reported here in The Guardian.

The report notes that the 2015 Paris agreement has driven action but says “much more is needed now on all fronts”. Crucially, it says it can be done. “There are now sufficient cost-effective opportunities to address the 2030 emissions gap,” it says.
The “indispensable” actions required are “scaling up renewable energy and phasing out all unabated fossil fuels”, as well as ending the destruction of forests and reducing methane emissions, especially from oil and gas operations.

The report does not shy away from the scale of the challenge. “It is essential to unlock and redeploy trillions of dollars to meet global investment needs,” it says. In other words, it requires reengineering the global financial system. Stopping the fossil fuel investments and vast subsidies that are throwing fuel on the climate fire is critical, it says.

I suppose that they also say that to keep hopes up and motivate governments and corporations to keep trying harder, knowing full well that the even 2°C limit will be overtaken before 2030. Only a former UN head of climate like Prof. Watson can disclose the uncomfortable truth honestly.

As it is almost certain that the +2°C of warming will be achieved in the next few years, I had a look at this sea level rise simulator to check what the actual effects of 2°C would be. I suppose that the oceans are not going to reach that level just as the climate his the +2°C mark, but that it will take some time for the ice to melt, maybe several years. But anyway the following regions are going to build dikes or suffer heavy consequences relatively soon.
  • More than half of Bangladesh will be under water. The country now has 173 million people and is the world's most densely populated country (except for city states and small island states). The flooded part will be the one where most people live, so it's likely than tens of millions, if not 100 million people, will need to be displaced.
  • Kolkata (Calcutta), in India's neighbouring state of West Bengal, will also be under water. That's an additional 15 million people.
  • About half of the greater Mumbai (26 million people) will be flooded.
  • All the greater Bangkok region will be under water. That's over 11 million people.
  • All the south of Vietnam and Cambodia, including the cities of Ho Chi Minh and Phom Penh will be under water. This region has about 20 million people.
  • In China, Shanghai, Jiangsu, Tianjin and a good part of Shandong Province will be under water. That's over 200 million people.
  • In Indonesia, larges swathes of Sumatra, Java and Borneo will be affected.
  • All of southern Mesopotamia (Basrah, Amarah, Nasiriyah), the ancient home of the Sumerians, will disappear under the sea.
  • In Italy, the Po delta, including Venice, Chioggia, Rovigo, Ferrara and Ravenna, will be flooded.
  • All the coast from western Jutland in Denmark to Calais in France, including Frisia, Holland and Zeeland in the Netherlands, the Belgian coast and the cities and Antwerp, Ghent and Bruges will be under the sea level. Some areas in the Netherlands already are and are protected by dikes, but these will needed to be extended internationally to cover about 1000 km of coastline.
  • In England, sea will flood a good part of Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire and the East Riding of Yorkshire, as well as parts of Norfolk, Suffolk, Kent and the Thames Estuary.
  • Many parts of the East coast of the USA will be affected. Cities that will suffer the most include Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Savannah, Charleston, Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Newark, and Boston.
  • In Canada, only the south of Vancouver will be affected. Likewise, Australia is mostly safe.
  • Few major cities will suffer from the sea level rise in Latin America, although Brazil will lose Marajó island (as big as The Netherlands) and a lot of coastal forests.
  • Africa will be mostly safe. The most affected region will be the Nile Delta and Alexandria, Nouakchott in Mauritania, St Louis in Senegal, and parts of Lagos in Nigeria.
 
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I think you should also consider where the temperatures are lower than normal and the fact the tsunami's and earthquakes change the axis placement. Would this affect the warming of areas normally more north and therefore colder? I do believe the earth is warming for several reasons.
 
I think you should also consider where the temperatures are lower than normal and the fact the tsunami's and earthquakes change the axis placement. Would this affect the warming of areas normally more north and therefore colder? I do believe the earth is warming for several reasons.
The increase in temperature compared to pre-industrial average has to be the global average of temperatures. It's useless to look at regional differences as there are always going to be regions that are warmer and others that are cooler than seasonal averages. When I wrote above that Copernicus reported that July and August 2023 were already 1.5°C warmer than pre-industrial averages it was not for Europe but for the whole world.
 
We still have three and a half months to go before the end of 2023, which explains why there are no official numbers for the year yet. But the graph below shows the temperature anomaly from January to August 2023 and the estimated average for the whole year. It looks like we are going to overtake the +1.5°C mark, just as I explained above.

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More bad news, I am afraid.

Two days ago the heat in Brazil could reach 45°C (113°F) - its highest temperature in history. The craziest thing is that it is now winter in the southern hemisphere, where this happened! Global warming has accelerated so much this year that the highest winter temperature this year in Brazil is now higher than the highest summer temperature of any previous years. Let this sink in your mind.

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The same thing is happening in Australia, where winter temperatures look very much like summer. On 19th September it was 35.7°C at Sydney Airport. According to Weathersparks, the average temperatures in Sydney in September are comprised between 12°C and 21°C. Last year hottest day in September was 25°C. The record has been beaten by 10°C!!!

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The sea temperature is well above +1.5°C in many parts of the world. The sea/ocean around Japan has been undergoing a major marine heatwave for the last several months, with sea surface temperatures currently up to 8°C (14.4°F) above normal.

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During that time the sea in Florida has already become too hot for corals to survive. Look at the gap with previous years.


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For those who thought that the July and August heat records were temporary events that would go back to normal afterwards, think again. The temperatures anomalies are even worse in September and the gap with previous years keeps widening.

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The message below is still too optimistic in my opinion. According to my calculations (see above), we are head for +3°C in less than 10 years.

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The earth has been much warmer without human intervention. What to make of this graph?

Edit: I'm not trying to discredit your predictions. We'll probably die in this oven of a world. But couldn't it be part of a natural cycle?
 

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I acknowledge the problem, however I don't like the title claiming the end of civilization by 2030.
Such unrealistic claims don't help at all. It's all about getting as much attention as possible by not putting things in perspective.
That is exactly what Roger Hallam does all the time.
 
The earth has been much warmer without human intervention. What to make of this graph?

Edit: I'm not trying to discredit your predictions. We'll probably die in this oven of a world. But couldn't it be part of a natural cycle?

It's certain that it isn't part of the natural cycle. I explained it in details here.
 
I acknowledge the problem, however I don't like the title claiming the end of civilization by 2030.
Such unrealistic claims don't help at all. It's all about getting as much attention as possible by not putting things in perspective.
That is exactly what Roger Hallam does all the time.
I would have said the same thing until last year. Then 2023 happened and, as I explained above, global warming accelerated far beyond anything imaginable by even the worst alarmists. I really did not expect to see such a quick rise in temperatures. Nobody did. To put things in perspective, the United Nations and most governments around the world were hoping to maintain global warming under +1.5°~2° of warming by 2050. That was ambitious but maybe not impossible if temperatures kept increasing at the same rate as they did between 2000 and 2022. During this period we gained 0.5°C in 23 years for summer temperatures and reached +1°C of warming in 2022. So, imagining that the increase remains stable despite the increase in world population and the economic growth of developing countries where population is increasing, we would reach +1.5°C in 2045, so a bit more by 2050. But this year everything changed as we gained 0.4°C in a single year, about as much as in the last 20 years. If this continues, we'll have exceeded +2.3°C by 2025 and well over +3°C by 2030. Of course, nothing is certain, but since June the trend has only amplified, as I have been explaining in this thread.

+3°C might not seem too bad for Northern Europeans. We'd just get a comfortable Mediterranean climate, maybe a bit too hot in summer in the afternoon, but on the whole maybe better than the traditional climate. Unfortunately places like India, the Middle East, and most of Africa would become uninhabitable (especially without air conditioning), so people would have to migrate en masse to northern Europe. Imagine 4 billion climate refugees in Europe.

If you (or anyone else) don't believe me that a few degrees of warming would render many already hot places uninhabitable, you may not have heard of the wet-bulb temperature. The way the body copes with temperatures depends a lot on the humidity level. 50°C in a dry climate is bearable, but 35°C with 100% humidity is much harder on the body. According to Wikipedia, "even heat-adapted people cannot carry out normal outdoor activities past a wet-bulb temperature of 32 °C (90 °F), equivalent to a heat index of 55 °C (131 °F)." Beyond that, the human body can no longer cool itself by evaporating sweat from the surface of the body to maintain a stable body core temperature. This was explained in a paper by Sherwood and Huber (2010). Sweat evaporates more quickly in drier air, cooling down the skin faster. If the relative humidity is 100%, no water can evaporate, and cooling by sweating or evaporation is not possible.

That's why it is more important to consider the heat index than actual temperatures to consider liveability in extreme conditions. As the Earth warms up, more ice melts and more water evaporates from the oceans, lakes and rivers, increasing the overall humidity, especially in coastal tropical regions. So the heat index increases faster than the air temperature as the percentage of humidity also rises.

This graph shows the variability in heat index based on relative humidity for given air temperatures. Note that the higher the temperature the wider the gap in heat index for every 10% of additional humidity. The danger zone (in red, heat index over 54) starts from 42°C with 40% humidity, but already from 32°C with 100% humidity.

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Unfortunately most people aren't familiar with heat index and very few weather websites have heat index maps.
 
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The Guardian just published this: The hottest summer in human history – a visual timeline

It's a good summary of what happened this summer around the world. It shows that climate change is not linear (any more). The question now is to know whether it's a one time upsurge or whether it is the rate of warming that has increased. In the latter case I stand by the title of this thread: we are going to gain +1°C every 2.5 or 3 years or so, which translates as +4° by 2030 and a mostly unlivable world of +5° above industrial averages in maybe 10 or 12 years' time, around 2033 to 2035. I seriously hope that it's just a one time upsurge.😟
 
When I posted about the Canadian wildfires 4 weeks ago, I wrote that it would surely exceed 400 megatonnes of CO2 released in the atmosphere, which would be the equivalent of 580 million cars driving for a full year. I did not expect forest fires to continue all through September, but they did and they now exceed 500 megatonnes of CO2, which is over 5 times more than the 2003-2022 mean. That's the emissions of over 700 million cars. There are d 1.4 billion cars on the road in the world. So this summer's Canadian wildfires released as much CO2 into the atmosphere as half of all the cars worldwide for an entire year!

Canadian_wildfires-2023.jpg



We are now at +1.4°C of warming, but this translates in temperatures often exceeding seasonal records by 3°, 4° or 5°C in Europe and the USA, and over 10°C in Australia and Canada.

I have started a separate thread to explain what the degrees of global warming really mean.
 
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Here are a few tweets that explain how in the last few months global warming has accelerated beyond anything the worst climate doomers thought possible. (For some reasons tweets don't show in the mobile version of the forum)

As this first tweet says, the general public does not understand what is happening.







 
The first global temperature data is in for the full month of September. It beat the previous monthly record by over 0.5°C (usually monthly records are beaten by about 0.1°C), and was around 1.8°C warmer than pre-industrial levels. It was already incredible that July and August were already at +1.5°C (0.4°C higher than 2022), but September is 0.3°C higher even than July and August!! If anyone read this and is not very concerned about it, then it means they don't understand these numbers. The UN and Joe Biden were still talking a few weeks ago about trying to keep global warming under 1.5°C by 2030. That's because bureaucracy just can't keep up with the acceleration of warming. They base their hopes on the latest IPCC report, which uses data until 2020! They obviously didn't follow closely what has been happening this year. In 2020, and even in 2022, I agreed with them that it was feasible to keep warming under 1.5°C by 2030. But we have already exceeded it and most climatologists now say that the coming months are going to be even warmer (above monthly averages) due to the Super El Niño. How do people in power still sleep at night?

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NB: Don't be fooled by the scale on the left. It shows temperature anomalies compared to year 2003, not pre-industrial levels. Add about one degree for pre-industrial levels. Here is another simpler graph.

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I guess the Super El Niño plays a roll in here, indeed.
But if so, why was this effect not allready calculated into the latest climat models?
 
I guess the Super El Niño plays a roll in here, indeed.
But if so, why was this effect not allready calculated into the latest climat models?

No, the Super El Niño has barely started and its effects on air temperatures won't be felt until this winter. Furthermore it is going to affect mostly the countries bordering the Pacific Ocean and to some extend the Indian Ocean, but not Europe at all. So the temperature records in Europe from June to September have nothing to do with El Niño. That's what is worrying.
 

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