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Climate Nearing Point of No Return: Land & Sea Temperatures Break Records

Experts stress urgent action as climate change consequences worsen, hoping rising temperatures and extreme weather trigger policy changes and international cooperation.

Shivam Dwivedi
Climate Nearing Point of No Return: Land & Sea Temperatures Break Records (Photo Source: Pixabay)
Climate Nearing Point of No Return: Land & Sea Temperatures Break Records (Photo Source: Pixabay)

Climate experts are sounding the alarm as the target of keeping long-term global warming within 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) appears to be slipping away. Despite months of unprecedented heat on both land and sea, nations have failed to set more ambitious goals in the fight against climate change.

According to the EU-funded Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), average global surface air temperatures were more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels for several days in early June, coinciding with the gathering of envoys in Bonn to prepare for this year's annual climate talks in November. While temperatures have breached the 1.5-degree threshold temporarily in the past, this was the first time it occurred during the northern hemisphere summer, which began on June 1. Additionally, sea temperatures have broken records in April and May.

According to climatologist Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick from Australia's University of New South Wales, it was emphasized that the situation is urgent, and she stated that time has run out because change requires time. As the world's two largest greenhouse gas emitters, China and the United States, are preparing to meet next month, extreme heatwaves have already affected both nations.

In June, the Chinese capital, Beijing, experienced temperatures that broke previous records, and certain regions of North America were more than 10 degrees Celsius higher than the seasonal average. It is estimated that the forest fires in Canada and the US East Coast have emitted a record-breaking 160 million metric tons of carbon.

Climate vulnerability has become increasingly evident in various regions. India, for instance, has reported a spike in deaths due to sustained high temperatures. Spain, Iran, and Vietnam have also experienced extreme heat, raising concerns that the deadly summers observed in recent years could become the norm.

Countries agreed in the 2015 Paris Agreement to strive for a long-term temperature rise limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius. However, the World Meteorological Organization predicts that there is now a 66 percent likelihood that the annual mean temperature will cross the 1.5-degree threshold for at least one whole year between now and 2027.

According to Piers Forster, a professor of climate physics at the University of Leeds, the rising land temperatures have been accompanied by increasing sea temperatures, which have been intensified by factors such as El Nino events and the decline in Saharan dust blowing over the ocean. He mentioned that this combination of factors is hitting the oceans with a quadruple whammy and believes it serves as a sign of things to come.

The impact of these rising temperatures on marine ecosystems is already noticeable, as evidenced by the thousands of dead fish washing up on Texan beaches and the deaths of sea lions and dolphins in California, caused by heat-induced algal blooms.

The implications of warmer seas extend beyond immediate ecological consequences. They can also lead to reduced wind and rainfall, creating a vicious cycle that amplifies heat further. Annalisa Bracco, a climatologist at the Georgia Institute of Technology, warns that the ocean's response to warming will be slow but long-lasting as it accumulates heat over time.

This year has seen an increase in extreme weather events, including punishing droughts worldwide and a rare and deadly cyclone in Africa. However, during the climate talks in Bonn, the Worldwide Fund for Nature expressed concern over the lack of momentum in addressing key issues like fossil fuels and finance ahead of the upcoming COP28 climate talks in Dubai.

Li Shuo, Greenpeace's senior climate adviser in Beijing, expressed disappointment, stating that the talks in Bonn were very detached from what was going on outside of the building. It is expected that the talks between the United States and China will resume, but there are few who anticipate significant progress or a breakthrough in climate negotiations.

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