CLIMATE WATCH - NASA claims that 2022 was one of the hottest years ever recorded. Furthermore, according to CareOurEarth.com, this past year experienced: “Record-Breaking Heatwaves Around the World.”
It was the year of fires (everywhere, big fires), scorching heat (globally) floods (Pakistan! Europe, China) loss of potable water (especially France and Italy) nearly impassable commercial waterways (Danube, Po, Rhine, Mississippi) sunbaked droughts (US Southwest, Chile) sputtering water reservoirs (Lake Mead). In all, a mini-biblical-scale worldwide disaster scenario that conditioned people of the world for what to expect when global warming really cranks up bigtime.
In that regard, the upcoming year 2023 looks like it could be bigtime.
And, of special note, the world’s leaders, scientists, economic bureaucrats, and fossil fuel lobbyists met in Egypt at UN-sponsored COP27 only a month ago for two weeks to figure out what’s going on with climate change. The gathering of 40,000 honorable delegates took place right on the heels of resounding evidence of a climate system on crutches. The delegates agreed in unison that we should not exceed 1.5°C pre-industrial or all hell will break lose.
Well, okay, but unfortunately 1.5C will likely come much earlier than most people expect based upon a recent article in Wired magazine by Bill McGuire, one of the world’s most forthright climate scientists: El Niño Is Coming—and the World Isn’t Prepared, Wired, December 24, 2022.
Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, has a reputation for telling it like it is, no sugar coating. In his words: “Global heating will set the stage for extreme weather everywhere in 2023. The consequences are likely to be cataclysmic.”
Well, if cataclysmic means more water supply failures, then the Po River Valley and French authorities that trucked water to more than 100 towns this past summer will need more trucks. Commercial barge operators on the rivers Danube and Mississippi will need to buy trucks to deliver basic goods.
The world climate system on-the-ropes in 2022 didn’t go unnoticed. An article in the Insurance Journal, d/d August 26, 2022, one of the nation’s most well-respected insurance trade publications, discussed the issue: Why Are the World’s Rivers, Canals, and Reservoirs Turning to Dust?
“From the U.S. to Italy to China, waters have receded, leaving nothing but barren banks of silt and oozing, muddied sand. Canals are empty. Reservoirs have turned to dust.” (Insurance Journal)
“The world is fully in the grip of accelerating climate change, and it has a profound economic impact. Losing waterways means a serious risk to shipping routes, agriculture, energy supplies — even drinking water,” Ibid.
“Rivers that have been critical to commerce for centuries are now shriveled, threatening the global movement of chemicals, fuel, food and other commodities,” Ibid.
“The reasons global waterways have dried to a trickle are complex. There’s the impact of the weather-roiling La Niña, prolonged drought in many regions and also simple bad luck. But the biggest driver underpinning the shift is climate change,” Ibid.
When a mainstream, conservative publication like the Insurance Journal publishes an article that reads like a doom & gloom rejoinder to climate deniers, inclusive of several right-wingnut Republicans, one must wonder what the hell’s really going on in the world, meaning: Who’s preventing a facsimile of a Marshall Plan to hopefully fix climate change that, at the very least, gives it its best shot? After all, it’s not exactly a military secret that the climate system is out of whack, screwed-up, and extremely dangerous, unless you listen to the insanity of Fox News charlatans.
Of considerable concern, the record-setting heat of 2022 happened during a recurrent climate cycle known as La Niña when waters of the equatorial Pacific are noticeably cooler than normal. In turn, La Niña influences weather patterns across the planet by providing a “cooler” backdrop. Thankfully, it acted to reduce the record-setting heat of 2022. Hmm.
“La Niña will end and eventually transition into the better-known El Niño, which sees the waters of the equatorial Pacific becoming much warmer. When it does, the extreme weather that has rampaged across our planet in 2021 and 2022 will pale into insignificance.” (McGuire)
Forecasters expect La Niña to continue into early 2023, but El Niño is expected to start strutting its stuff sometime during the year, which will probably bring on “the hottest year on record,” according to Bill McGuire, as the heat builds in 2023, it is within the range of possibility that global temperatures will “touch or even exceed 1.5°C.” But delegates to the UN COP27 affair in Egypt only one month ago drew a line in the sand at 1.5C.
McGuire views 1.5C as entry into the dreaded climate breakdown zone, meaning, in his words: “The formerly stable climate will begin to collapse in earnest.”
Assuming it happens as suggested, the implications are not good: Starting with (1) drought-slashing crop yields, leading to (2) rising crop prices, stoking inflation, resulting in (3) the possibility of civil unrest, as (4) Lake Powell could stop power generation for 4 million householders sometime in 2023, foreshadowing (5) the possibility of Lake Mead “dead pool” status in 2024, impacting 40,000,000 people. If the foregoing sounds apocalyptic, it is apocalyptic, but frankly, it’s only a sampling. Hopefully, with fingers crossed, nature surprisingly takes an altered course, or some other unexpected miracle intervenes to lessen the impact of what could be an extremely dangerous unforgiving 2023 and 2024.
McGuire also mentioned the impact of super storms. La Niña lessens the impact of hurricanes in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico but losing its impact in 2023 is expected to bring stormier weather, e.g.: “This would favor the formation and persistence of super-hurricanes, powering winds and storm surges capable of wiping out a major US city, should they strike land.” (McGuire)
According to Severe Weather Europe d/d December 3, 2022: “We are already seeing signs that later in 2023, an El Nino could emerge after several years. It can completely change the weather patterns for the weather seasons next year.” (Severe-weather.eu)
“El Nino and La Nina are just opposite faces of the ENSO, which stands for ‘El Niño Southern Oscillation.’ This region in the equatorial Pacific Ocean periodically shifts between warm and cold phases. Typically, there is a phase change around every 1-3 years,” Ibid.
Over time, ENSO affects overall global circulation, as it influences weather patterns across the world.
Once damaging weather systems disrupt what the world depends upon, like grain supplies, at some point in time universal distress takes over people’s behavior as they start figuring out what’s going on in the world and start looking for answers. Along those lines, most major nations are squeezed for funds because of excessive levels of debt. Meanwhile, almost all the extra money that could be used to help fix the climate mess is held at the top of the pyramid where billionaires hang out with their pet projects, like a death-trip to Mars or a 20-minute joyride into outer space. Oh, Gee, What a thrill! But what if confused angry masses surround their gated estates, like the Reign of Terror/Paris 1793 when 80,000 Parisians surrounded the Bastille, demanding billionaire funding for fixing the climate and who knows what else? What will the billionaires do?
As it happens, industrial civilization, the biggest heat machine of all time, increasingly puts a bigger and ever-bigger exclamation point on the ENSO cycle, which results in years like 2022 with NASA posting red-warning-flags all over the place. Countries of the world recognize this human-generated impact on global warming and ecosystem destruction because they meet once a year at the UN Conference of the Parties COPs to discuss it, in fact, nearly 200 attended COP27. Why would all 0f the world’s countries agree to meet every year to discuss the same thing over and over again if they weren’t nervous about dire ramifications when too much CO2 blankets the atmosphere, like we’ve got right now?
Yet perplexingly, despite NASA’s red-warning-flags and despite unanimous agreement among all of the nations at COPs that global warming must be stopped at 1.5C, after 30 years of haggling, nothing of consequence on a worldwide coordinated basis has been initiated to reduce greenhouse gases that cause global warming. Why not? After all, if you break it, y0u can fix it, or can you?
(Robert Hunziker, MA, economic history DePaul University, awarded membership in Pi Gamma Mu International Academic Honor Society in Social Sciences is a freelance writer and environmental journalist who has over 200 published articles appearing in over 50 journals, magazines, and sites worldwide.)