Climate chaos: world overheats while Europe faces a new Ice Age

Feb 13, 2024
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The hottest January ever recorded in human history has passed, with barely a nod from governments worldwide and international media. For a full year, the Earth has now exceeded the +1.5 degrees danger level set by the Paris Agreement in 2015. And 2024 may be hotter still, US scientists are warning.

Wildfires rage unchecked over half the globe while western Europe stares down the barrel at a local Ice Age, as the oceanic circulation that warms it shows signs of breakdown. Meanwhile meteorologists, shocked at the growing violence of storms, are debating adding a new Hurricane Category 6 to the existing 5, one with wind speeds exceeding 309 kmh.

All are ominous indicators of the climate wrath to come.

Yet the responsible voices of warning remain few, and surprisingly muted. “We are heading towards a catastrophe if we don’t fundamentally change the way we produce and consume energy within a few years,” said Denmark’s Global Climate Policy Minister Dan Jorgensen. And UN chief Antonio Gutteres, who warned in 2023 that ‘the era of global boiling has arrived’, optimistically predicted the end of the fossil fuel era.

Meanwhile fossil fuel majors – who are stoking the climate chaos – are making record payouts to shareholders. And the 151 governments who promised in Paris to achieve ‘net zero’ carbon emissions “…still plan to produce more than double the amount of fossil fuels in 2030 than (is) consistent with limiting global warming to 1.5°C,” according to the UN Environment Program’s Production Gap Report.

That governments and the carbon lobby are now in an undeclared war with humanity is plain in the politics. In the US, President Biden has issued 10,000 new oil drilling permits with more to come, while his rival, Donald Trump, is promising to “drill, baby, drill”. In Australia, coal, coal, oil and gas companies continue to bankroll both Government and Opposition political parties to ‘go slow’ on carbon cuts.

Perhaps the most unsettling news of the emerging climate havoc was the warning by Dutch scientists that the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC), which transports heat from the tropics to warm western Europe, may be approaching the point of breakdown, due to global climate change. The cause is the massive influx of fresh, cold water – known as the ‘cold blob’ – into the North Atlantic, as Greenland and the Arctic melt, which is driving the AMOC back on itself.

Based on current observational data, the Dutch researchers found – to their horror – that once it reaches its tipping point, the AMOC is liable to break down fast. Exactly when that tipping point will occur is not yet clear – but the team are building a model to provide early warning. However, the climatic effects could be catastrophic.

Cities such as London, Paris, Bergen, Oslo, Vienna and Reykjavik may undergo temperature drops of between 5 and 15 degrees C. The area of crops grown in northwestern Europe could shrink by half. At the same time, the push-back on the AMOC by northern icecap meltwater, will likely increase flooding and sea level rise along the North American east coast.

Source: based on Caesar et al., Nature 2018. Image: Supplied

A mini-Ice Age for western Europe while the Earth as a whole continues to overheat may sound like a climate denier’s wet dream. But it is the perfect illustration of the climate chaos now being unleashed on the world by the planet’s natural physics of heat transfer. Physics of which world leaders remain gobsmackingly ignorant.

It will turn one of the world’s most food-secure regions, with a population of 200 million people, into a potential famine zone. It could turn one of the world’s primary receiving regions for migrants from Africa, the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent into a volcanic eruption of climate refugees.

Don’t expect grain surplus countries like Australia or Argentina to come to the rescue. (Or Ukraine, if Russia gets it way.) In Australia, the local continental temperature has already risen by 1.5 degrees C since 1910, faster than most of the rest of the world, which is not a good sign for grain crops.

Behind all the concern is the continued, steep rise in world ocean temperatures:

Image: Supplied

On Feb 9, 2024, world sea surface temperatures reached their highest level ever recorded, an average of 21.13 degrees. The oceans are the planet’s chief heat sink, absorbing most of the surplus incoming energy trapped in the atmosphere by the man-made carbon blanket.

Higher ocean temperatures spell increased evaporation, leading to heavier downpours and more intense storms, worse floods and loss of icecaps on land – and a faster approach to key tipping points like the collapse of AMOC and explosive discharge of the Antarctic glaciers.

It is clear the world’s governments have neither the skills, the brains nor the moral integrity to work their way out of such a crisis – and remain obedient to their fossil fuel overlords. They are willing to sacrifice the next ten generations of humanity, at least, to the unbridled lust for fossil riches. However, as the climate chaos intensifies, one of the first casualties will be the world economy – so all this ‘wealth’ is liable to prove illusory.

At present, no government has a plan for saving humanity on a habitable Earth. Without global agreement to develop one, it will never happen. The UN’s forthcoming Summit of the Future, to be held in September 2024, will likely flag some – but not all – of the major threats to humanity and what must be done about them. And it will likely be sabotaged by the same forces that torpedoed the COP27 and COP28 Climate talks.

Many people have called for climate action to be placed ‘on a war footing’. But so far, the only war that has begun is the one against humanity and the planet it hopes to live on, waged by powers of darkness in global industry and politics.

It is now of supreme urgency that all citizens of Earth come together to demand an Earth System Treaty, a global agreement committing all of us to work to preserve a habitable planet for our children.

Unless we agree to save ourselves, we cannot save ourselves.

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