The overall picture of Earth’s health is grim, although there are bright spots: solar and wind power are on the rise, and deforestation has slowed
Earth’s Latest ‘Vital Signs’ Show the Planet Is in Crisis

A new planetary report card confirms that humans are making little progress on confronting the climate crisis.

“Humanity is failing, to put it bluntly,” says Bill Ripple, an Oregon State University ecologist. “Rather than cutting greenhouse gas emissions, we’re increasing them. So we’re not doing well right now.”

Ripple is co-author of research published on October 24 in BioScience that offers a snapshot of Earth’s status on 35 “planetary vital signs” with regards to climate. The analysis shows that humans have reached new extremes on 20 of these measurements, including global gross domestic product, fossil fuel subsidies, annual carbon pollution and glacier thinning. Overall, the report considers human activities, such as deforestation and meat consumption, as well as the planet’s responses to those activities, including characteristics such as ice loss and temperature changes.

Ripple also says that in addition to the 35 formal variables, most of which he and his colleagues began to track in late 2019, the team is closely watching global estimates of populations that are experiencing undernourishment. Though undernourishment can have political causes, it is often tied to climate factors such as droughts and floods that damage crops.

Where possible, the analysis is based on data through the present, although some variables without freshly reported measurements rely on slightly older data. But there’s no denying that the picture is grim. “Many climate-related records have been broken by enormous margins in 2023,” Ripple says. For example, July was the hottest month ever recorded, and September was the most anomalously warm month, both by a significant amount.

The researchers also noticed a steep increase in global disasters tied to climate, including flooding, wildfires, heat waves and landslides. Ripple and his colleagues identified 14 disasters since October 2022 that were “definitely” or “likely” exacerbated by climate change. For example, a separate analysis found that heat waves that baked parts of North America and Europe this summer would have been “virtually impossible” without climate change. All told, these disasters killed thousands of people and affected millions; several individual events caused more than $1 billion in damage. In fact, the U.S. has already set a record for “billion-dollar disasters” this year, with several months left.


Source: scientific american


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