Consider these two numbers — five and 12 — and this month: October. These are important because this past week climate scientists at Climate Central, and Copernicus Climate Change Service released two alarming reports.
The first report based on International data, documents that humanity (that’s us folks) has just lived through the hottest 12 consecutive months in the past 125,000 years on earth. From November 2022 through October, 2023 — including the warmest winter on record in the Southern Hemisphere — the nonprofit research group Climate Central recorded an average temperature of 1.32 degrees Celsius above the monthly pre-industrial levels.
The second report, confirms that for the past five months, the world has been abnormally hot — the sort of “hot” you might envision in a disaster movie. Only this real-life version of a disaster movie has it all; not just severe and powerful storms and soaring temperatures, but rising sea levels, fierce wildfires, and life-taking flooding.
Scientists are predicting that this heat trend is all but certain to continue through 2023, and if the last five months are any indication, we don’t know how much the average temperatures will continue to ramp. That’s because the rapid temperature rises are coinciding with the periodic weather pattern over the Pacific Ocean known as El Niño.
Almost universally, climate experts, scientists, universities and laboratories, and now most (but not all) politicians agree that long-term global warming is primarily driven by the burning of planet-heating fossil fuels, resulting in greenhouse gases that are warming the atmosphere, melting the glaciers, creating intense storms, heat and conditions contributing to more violent weather.
“The key is this is not normal. These are temperatures we should not be experiencing,” said Climate Central Vice President of Science Andrew Pershing on a call with reporters. “We are only experiencing them because we have put too much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.”
The warming of the planet is not happening equally; in places like India, temperatures are soaring, even as most of the population of 1.2 billion has no access to energy for cooling and creating not just drought, but water scarcity. In the south and southwest of the United States, cities in Texas and Arizona sweltered in the highest-ever recorded heat that went on for weeks.
Not just the drought-stricken Colorado River, but the mighty Mississippi River in the country’s heartland are flowing at record low levels.
Another study published last week by the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service predicted that 2023 is “virtually certain” to be the hottest year on record. This past October was the hottest October on record by a significant margin, beating the previous record set in 2019 by 0.4 degrees Celsius. The month was 1.7 degrees Celsius warmer than the pre-industrial average.
The warning signs of a planet becoming increasingly inhospitable to human life aren’t on the way — they are here. The Third Rock from the Sun is running out of time.
Editor’s note: The 3rd Rock from the Sun was a comedy family Sci-Fi TV Series (1996–2001) in which a group of aliens is sent to Earth, disguised as a human family, to experience and report life on the third planet from the sun.