Extreme weather events are becoming more frequent worldwide as global average temperature increases. The earth’s temperature has already warmed above 1.1°C since preindustrial times. For every devasting flood, hurricane, typhoon, or wildfire, people want to know the role of climate change in it.
Scientists can identify climate change’s fingerprints on these extreme events through attribution studies, such as the World Weather Attribution initiative.
CNN lists “impossible events” or climate shocks worldwide that are clearly linked to rising temperatures. In other words, these events could not have happened without climate change:
- The Siberian heatwave in 2020. Temperatures that reached 38°C in an otherwise frigid place have also triggered widespread wildfires;
- The Pacific Northwest heat waves in 2021 descended on western Canada and the US states of Oregon and Washington. Temperatures reached almost 49.6°C, killed hundreds and triggered devastating wildfires;
- Droughts from North America to Europe to China in 2022, ruining crops and depleting water resources;
- The three-year drought in the Horn of Africa from 2022 to 2023 is the worst in 40 years. Crops have withered, water sources have dried up, and cattle starved in an already impoverished region;
- Heatwave in Mediterranean countries of Spain, Portugal, Morocco, and Algeria in April 2023. Temperatures reached 40.6 C worsening the droughts in the region, and,
- South Asia countries Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos, India and Bangladesh have also seen new all-time high temperatures in April 2023.
The article also notes that other extreme events, such as the Australian Black Summer fires in 2019 to 2020, the Western US drought from 2020 to 2023, Hurricane Ian 2022, and the Pakistan floods in 2022, were also made more likely or made worse by climate change.
Around the world, we are seeing the frequency and intensity of climate change impacts through extreme weather events, which require an urgent response in this crucial decade, a time frame where scientists project we will exceed the critical warming threshold of 1.5°C by around the 2030s.
The IPCC‘s Special Report on Global Warming (SR15), a global warming of 1.5°C will increase risks to health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security, and economic growth. Livestock will also be affected by changes in feed quality, the spread of diseases, and lack of water supplies.
The rise of vector-borne diseases like malaria and dengue fever will increase health risks. At the same time, the warming planet will bring more frequent and intense weather events that can expose more people to disasters impacting the most vulnerable and poorer countries and communities.
Annual Updates of Key Climate Indicators
Climate actions or responses must be based on reliable and timely information. The IPCC reports are the authoritative source of information on climate change to governments and policymakers. “The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change provides regular assessments of the scientific basis of climate change, its impacts and future risks and options for adaptation and mitigation.” However, the assessment reports come out every 5 to 10 years, which means there is an information gap between the report cycles.
To fill this gap, a group of 50 climate scientists from 17 countries, also involved in the latest IPCC report cycle, the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6), have created the Indicators of Global Climate Change (IGCC).
“The Indicators of Global Climate Change (IGCC) initiative is providing updates of several key global climate indicators reported by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that can help us to understand the state of the climate system and how it is changing.”
These climate change indicators consist of emissions of greenhouse gases and short-lived climate forcers, greenhouse gas concentrations, radiative forcing, surface temperature changes, the earth’s energy imbalance, warming attributed to human activities, the remaining carbon budget, and estimates of global temperature extremes.
According to the author’s analysis, “The purpose of this effort, grounded in an open data, open science approach, is to make annually updated reliable global climate indicators available in the public domain. As they are traceable to IPCC report methods, they can be trusted by all parties involved in UNFCCC negotiations and help convey a wider understanding of the latest knowledge of the climate system and its direction of travel.”
The updated indicators show that the global average temperature has reached 1.14°C averaged between 2013 to 2022 and 1.26°C in 2022, showing an increase of 0.07°C since the 2021 IPCC report. Between 2013 and 2022, warming increased at an unprecedented rate of over 0.2°C per decade, resulting from all-time high GHG emissions and a decrease in aerosol cooling strength. However, there is also evidence that GHG emissions have slowed and, depending on changes in societal behaviour and choices, could see a change in the GHG emissions trend in this critical decade.
To make the data more accessible and user-friendly, IGCC has developed a “dashboard” of climate indicators. The dashboard currently focuses on the main policy-relevant indicators like GHG emissions, human-caused global warming, the rate of temperature changes, and the remaining global carbon budget.
As the initiative aims to push for strong and ambitious climate action, scientists behind the IGCC hope that providing annual updates of climate change indicators will support decision-makers between the IPCC report cycles by providing them with accessible and user-friendly climate information.
Ramirez, R. (2023, June 16). Without climate change, these extreme weather events would not have happened. CNN. Retrieved from https://edition.cnn.com/2023/06/15/world/extreme-weather-events-climate-change/index.html
Forster, P. M., Smith, C. J., Walsh, T., Lamb, W. F., Lamboll, R., Hauser, M., Ribes, A., Rosen, D., Gillett, N., Palmer, M. D., Rogelj, J., Von Schuckmann, K., Seneviratne, S. I., Trewin, B., Zhang, X., Allen, M., Andrew, R., Birt, A., Borger, A., … Zhai, P.. (2023). Indicators of Global Climate Change 2022: annual update of large-scale indicators of the state of the climate system and human influence. Earth System Science Data, 15(6), 2295–2327. https://doi.org/10.5194/essd-15-2295-2023
Rosen, D. & Forster, P. (2023, June 8). Guest post: New indicators will track climate change between IPCC reports. Carbon Brief. Retrieved from https://www.carbonbrief.org/guest-post-new-indicators-will-track-climate-change-between-ipcc-reports/