The Earth’s climate is approaching a dangerous threshold and a point of no return. Record-breaking temperatures recorded both on land and at sea are alarming around the world. Despite months of scorching heat, the international community has shown little resolve in setting clearer climate goals. Meanwhile, the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius is becoming increasingly unattainable.
This June, climate officials gathered in Bonn for preparatory discussions ahead of key climate talks scheduled for November. According to the EU-funded climate change service Copernicus (C3S), average global surface air temperatures have exceeded 1.5°C compared to pre-industrial levels for several days in a row. This was the first time in the Northern Hemisphere summer, which begins June 1. The threshold had been exceeded before, but only at other times of the year. In April and May, ocean temperatures reached record highs.
Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick, a renowned climatologist at Australia’s University of New South Wales, expressed a grave warning: “We don’t have much time, because change takes time.
The real consequences of climate change are becoming evident around the world. In China, one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions, the capital Beijing faced record temperatures in June. The United States, also a major source of emissions, struggled with extreme heat. In North America, temperatures were 10 degrees above the seasonal average. Wildfires swept across parts of Canada and the U.S. East Coast, with carbon emissions reaching a record 160 million metric tons.
The effects of record temperatures are spreading beyond North America. In India, a highly vulnerable region to climate change, persistently high temperatures have led to a spike in deaths. Spain, Iran, and Vietnam have also faced extreme heat, raising fears that deadly summers could become the new normal.
Already in 2015, countries rallied around an agreement in Paris to strive to keep long-term average temperature increases within 1.5°C. But this May’s forecast from the World Meteorological Organization is alarming. With a 66 percent probability, they predict that average annual temperatures will cross that threshold for at least one full year over the next four years.
Piers Forster, professor of climate physics at the University of Leeds, attributes the record temperatures as a result of global warming, the El Niño phenomenon, the reduction of Saharan dust carried over the ocean, and the use of low-sulfur marine fuels. He notes that the oceans are being quadrupled, a harbinger of things to come.
The record-breaking heat wave is also having a negative impact on marine ecosystems. In California, thousands of dead fish washed ashore in Texas and heat-induced algae blooms have led to the deaths of sea lions and dolphins.