December 2023

1.  Earth warming faster than expected

James E. Hansen, et al, “Global warming in the pipeline,” Oxford Open Climate Change (2 Nov 2023).  bit.ly/47dEtd8

See also, Patrick Hilsman, “James Hansen study warns Earth warming faster than previously thought,” UPI (2 Nov 2023).  bit.ly/40ng1nm

“A new study led by James Hansen, a scientist responsible for raising public consciousness about climate change in the 1980s, suggests global temperatures are increasing faster than expected.

The study suggests global temperatures will reach a crucial 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by the year 2050, faster than was previously expected by scientific consensus.

Hansen’s study implies that the highly regarded Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which is often used as a reference point for climate study, underestimated the urgency of the impact of global climate change.”

2.  Countries vulnerable to climate change continue to get less support from developed countries

“Underfinanced. Underprepared. Inadequate investment  and planning on climate adaptation leaves world exposed,”  UN Adaptation Gap Report (2 Nov 2023).  bit.ly/3sqISKX

See also, “World isn’t spending nearly enough money to prepare the most vulnerable countries for climate extremes, UN reports,” CNN (2 Nov 2023).  bit.ly/3MqQ7cI

“Measures to adapt to climate change in the developing world are slowing on all fronts even as the impacts of the crisis are accelerating, creating a widening gap that leaves billions of people increasingly vulnerable to extreme heat, worsening storms and sea level rise, a UN report published Thursday shows.

The estimated costs to fully prepare low-income nations for the worst effects of a rapidly heating planet are now 10 to 18 times greater than the amount of money that is currently flowing to these regions, according to the United Nations Environment Programme’s annual “adaptation gap” report. That’s a more than 50% larger gap than UNEP had estimated in its 2022 report.”

3.  Not much hope to keeping global warming below 1.5 C degrees (2.7 F degrees)

Robin D. Lamboll, “Assessing the size and uncertainty of remaining carbon budgets,” Nature Climate Change (30 Oct 2023). bit.ly/40rUNoI


“The remaining carbon budget (RCB), the net amount of CO2 humans can still emit without exceeding a chosen global warming limit, is often used to evaluate political action against the goals of the Paris Agreement. RCB estimates for 1.5 °C are small, and minor changes in their calculation can therefore result in large relative adjustments. Here we evaluate recent RCB assessments by the IPCC and present more recent data, calculation refinements and robustness checks that increase confidence in them. We conclude that the RCB for a 50% chance of keeping warming to 1.5 °C is around 250 GtCO2 as of January 2023, equal to around six years of current CO2 emissions. For a 50% chance of 2 °C the RCB is around 1,200 GtCO2. Key uncertainties affecting RCB estimates are the contribution of non-CO2 emissions, which depends on socioeconomic projections as much as on geophysical uncertainty, and potential warming after net zero CO2.”

4.   Increased severity of drought in Syria, Iraq and Iran: climate change and socio-economic water stressors

Otto, F., et al., “Human-induced climate change compounded by socio-economic water stressors increased severity of drought in Syria, Iraq and Iran,” Grantham Institute for Climate Change, Imperial College London UK bit.ly/3sp4Lul

“Main findings:

  • The drought affects a region with a highly vulnerable population due to varying degrees of fragility and conflict including war and post-war transition, rapid urbanisation in the face of limited technical capacity, and regional instability. These dynamics increased vulnerability to the impacts of drought and created a humanitarian crisis.
  • The whole Euphrates and Tigris basin (ET-basin) and large parts of Iran experienced extreme and exceptional agricultural drought over the 36 months up to June 2023, making it the second-worst drought on record in both regions based on SPEI.
  • The extreme nature of the drought is not rare in the present climate (which has been warmed by 1.2°C due to burning of fossil fuels). Events of comparable severity are expected to occur
    at least every decade…
  • These results highlight that despite ‘low confidence’ in IPCC projections for drought in the region, increasing water stress driven by human-induced climate change as well as other systemic factors continues to be a major threat for the population and requires urgent efforts for more effective water management strategies, interdisciplinary humanitarian response, and regional cooperation that includes farmers and other stakeholders in the planning.”

5. Accelerated state of downwasting of Greenland’s peripheral glaciers

L. J. Larocca, et al., “Greenland-wide accelerated retreat of peripheral glaciers in the twenty-first century,” Nature Climate Change (9 Nov 2023).   https://bit.ly/4765Cz2


“The long-term response of Greenland’s peripheral glaciers to climate change is widely undocumented. Here we use historical aerial photographs and satellite imagery to document length fluctuations of >1,000 land-terminating peripheral glaciers in Greenland over more than a century. We find that their rate of retreat over the last two decades is double that of the twentieth century, indicating a ubiquitous transition into a new, accelerated state of downwasting.”

6.  An analysis of the conservation status of 14,669 European terrestrial, freshwater and marine species

Axel Hochkirch, “A multi-taxon analysis of European Red Lists reveals major threats to biodiversity,” PLOS ONE (8 Nov 2023).  bit.ly/40xfU8Z


Biodiversity loss is a major global challenge and minimizing extinction rates is the goal of several multilateral environmental agreements. Policy decisions require comprehensive, spatially explicit information on species’ distributions and threats. We present an analysis of the conservation status of 14,669 European terrestrial, freshwater and marine species (ca. 10% of the continental fauna and flora), including all vertebrates and selected groups of invertebrates and plants. Our results reveal that 19% of European species are threatened with extinction, with higher extinction risks for plants (27%) and invertebrates (24%) compared to vertebrates (18%). These numbers exceed recent IPBES (Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services) assumptions of extinction risk. Changes in agricultural practices and associated habitat loss, overharvesting, pollution and development are major threats to biodiversity. Maintaining and restoring sustainable land and water use practices is crucial to minimize future biodiversity declines.

7.  Sewage pollution of inland bathing spots in England

Surfers Against Sewage, Water Quality Report 2023bit.ly/49K3u1H

See also, Helena Horton, “Most inland bathing spots in England have unsafe pollution levels, report finds,” The Guardian (21 Nov 2023).  bit.ly/3MT43fM

“The majority of popular inland bathing spots in England have been found to be unsafe for swimming, according to a report by Surfers Against Sewage.

In a survey of a representative sample of popular swimming and water sports locations, 60% were found to have pollution at unsafe levels, the annual report from the campaign group said…

The report highlights that this year across the UK, untreated sewage was discharged more than 399,864 times into waterways – the equivalent of more than 1,000 discharge events every day. Surfers Against Sewage also reported 1,924 cases of sickness due to suspected sewage pollution in the UK over the last year – nearly triple the number of cases reported in the previous year. The cases resulted in 1,987 days taken off sick.”

8.  World faces ‘hellish’ 3C of climate warming

UN Emissions Gap Report 2003, Broken Record: Temperatures hit new highs, yet world fails to cut emissions (again) bit.ly/3QNw49F

See also, Damian Carringotn, “World facing ‘hellish’ 3C of climate heating, UN warns before Cop28,” The Guardian (20 Nov 2023).  bit.ly/3MTtGgs via @guardian

“The report found that today’s carbon-cutting policies are so inadequate that 3C of heating would be reached this century.

Temperature records have already been obliterated in 2023 and intensifying heatwaves, floods and droughts have taken lives and hit livelihoods across the globe, in response to a temperature rise of 1.4C to date. Scientists say far worse is to come if temperatures continue to rise. The secretary general of the UN, António Guterres, has said repeatedly the world is heading for a “hellish” future.

9.  Coal pollution worse than other forms of particulate matter but scrubbers working to lower the pollution

Lucas Henneman, et al., “Mortality risk from United States coal electricity generation,” Science (2 Nov 2023). bit.ly/47lrXZD

Editor’s summary:

“The success of measures to mitigate environmental damage can be hard to assess. The advent of new modeling tools brings us closer to estimates that are reproducible and do not need expensive and time-consuming computing. Henneman et al. found that coal-burning power stations emit fine particulates (PM2.5) containing sulfur dioxide that are associated with higher mortality than other types of PM2.5 (see the Perspective by Mendelsohn and Min Kim). Using a reduced-form atmospheric model combined with historical Medicare data from the US, the authors identified the coal-burning power plants associated with the greatest mortality and estimated the effect that closure or scrubber installation has had on reducing it. This type of approach can provide a rapid indication of the effectiveness of environmental protection measures to inform ongoing policy decisions. —Caroline Ash”

10.  Measuring how much more Earth may warm, or cool, if and when human carbon dioxide emissions zero out

Sofia Palazzo Corner, et al., “The Zero Emissions Commitment and climate stabilization,” Frontiers in science (14 Nov 2023).  bit.ly/3uybXVP


“How do we halt global warming? Reaching net zero carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions is understood to be a key milestone on the path to a safer planet. But how confident are we that when we stop carbon emissions, we also stop global warming? The Zero Emissions Commitment (ZEC) quantifies how much warming or cooling we can expect following a complete cessation of anthropogenic CO2 emissions. To date, the best estimate by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report is zero change, though with substantial uncertainty. In this article, we present an overview of the changes expected in major Earth system processes after net zero and their potential impact on global surface temperature, providing an outlook toward building a more confident assessment of ZEC in the decades to come. We propose a structure to guide research into ZEC and associated changes in the climate, separating the impacts expected over decades, centuries, and millennia. As we look ahead at the century billed to mark the end of net anthropogenic CO2 emissions, we ask: what is the prospect of a stable climate in a post-net zero world?”




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