Just as we feared, new science confirms tipping points and climate catastrophes can arrive much, much sooner than we were told. A must-listen interview with UK research scientist and lead author Simon Willcock. Seems like it’s already here, with extreme heat punishing every continent. Canadian scientist Paul Beckwith joins me to peer through the smoke into the climate fire, around the planet.
Rev. Billy Talens, Church of Stop Shopping in New York City Smog, 2023
A few years ago on Radio Ecoshock I asked: when can we expect the first global heat wave? Well, here we are, and it is not even reported. Weather forecasts are locked into one country, and even the BBC in their quick roundup does not tie anything together. News flash: extreme heat is bubbling up EVERYWHERE in the Northern Hemisphere, and even in the South. In fact, Earth hit a new high global average temperature on July 3rd! It was the hottest day ever recorded.
With previous guests, we asked: when will a heat wave go global. Now. Here are Tweets for a single week, the last week of June 2023, from weather historian Maximilliano Herrera and other sources:
TEXAS AND US SOUTH: At least a dozen dead as heat dome bakes southern US for weeks.
MEXICO: “Mexico has been suffering through one of its worst heatwaves in its history for the last 7+ days and it shows no sign of letting up over the next week as a relentless heat dome stays parked overhead. Northern Mexico could soar as high as 50°C (122°F) over the next few days.” – Colin McCarthy, US_Stormwatch. Herrera: ““Mexico is living its worst heat wave in climatic history hands down.”
NORTHERN CANADA: Exceptional heat breeding unstoppable fires continues in the Canadian north.
GREENLAND: (June 29) “there was melting over 59% of the area of Greenland. This is by far the highest value so early in the season.” – Martin Stendel
PORTUGAL AND SPAIN: Record heat wave in Algarve in Portugal, smashing all records, and 20 heat records broken in Spain.
AUSTRIA: Herrera says: “Absolutely mind blowing heat record in Austria: just before MIDNIGHT Oberndorf with fohn effect rose to 36.1C beating its monthly heat record. It’s one of the highest temperatures ever recorded in Europe at midnight and one of the very few cases a record is broken night time.”
MOROCCO: WXWeatherman Scott Duncan reports “Extreme heat in Northwest Africa. Morocco has just observed its hottest June day on record. 48.5°C breaks the previous national June record by +1.6°C (set in 2012).”
SAUDI ARABIA: According to the Guardian ““More than 2,000 people suffered heat stress during the hajj pilgrimage, Saudi officials said on Thursday, after temperatures soared to 48C (118F).”
IRAN: “Eastern #Iran is also living the harshest heat wave in its history with weeks of relentless record heat.” breaking all records.
NORTHERN INDIA: Punishing, relentless heat continues.
CHINA: “More records in China: Stifling hot and humid night at Shanghai (POR >100 years) and hottest June night on records with a Tmin of 29.8C. Several hundreds records have been falling in China since the first day of the month and more are coming.
AUSTRALIA: Queensland and more hit new record highs, like 32 C, 89 F in their WINTER.
JAPAN: “Extraordinary heat wave in Japan: Records fall by dozens every day…”
CARIBBEAN: “Never ending record heat in the Dominican Republic, under heat waves for months.”
SOUTH AMERICA: “Summer in winter in South America”.
There you go, a trip around the world in record-setting heat. Doesn’t make the news. Nothing being done. Let’s get to our important guests.
SIMON WILLCOCK – EARLY COLLAPSE
You always hear about climate change or extinctions by the end of this century, 2100. But what if that horror comes much sooner, during your own life? What is really possible, if things go from bad to worse? A shocking new peer-reviewed paper was just published in Nature Sustainability. The title is “Earlier collapse of Anthropocene ecosystems driven by multiple faster and noisier drivers.” We have reached the lead author.
Simon Willcock is Principle Research Scientist at Rothamsted Research, the oldest agricultural research institute in the world. He is also Professor of Sustainability at Bangor University in Wales.
The paper builds on a great deal of earlier pioneering work into a global view of interlocking systems. For me there are two related streams: the speed of change, and convergence of factors previously studied separately. On the first]
In March 2021 I interviewed a young scientist Johannes Lohmann, then a Postdoc at Denmark’s Niels Bohr Institute. Johannes studied past abrupt glacial climate changes. He warned Earth could hit climate tipping points much sooner than expected partly due to the RATE of climate change.
The new paper, published in the journal Nature Sustainability says, quote:
“Overall, global warming will increase the frequency of unprecedented extreme events, raise the probability of compound events and ultimately could combine to make multiple system failures more likely…”
The Abstract finds:
“We conduct experiments on four models that simulate abrupt changes in the Chilika lagoon fishery, the Easter Island community, forest dieback and lake water quality – representing ecosystems with a range of anthropogenic interactions. Collapses occur sooner under increasing levels of primary stress but additional stresses and/or the inclusion of noise in all four models bring the collapses substantially closer to today by ~38 – 81%. “
On June 22nd along with co-authors John Dearing and Gregory Cooper, Simon published an explainer for the public in The Conversation. Among other things, you caution ecological disaster cannot be fixed by governments like the bailouts of Western banks in 2008.
There was decent media coverage for this paper in Nature Sustainability. The phrase “ecological doom-loops” generated over 35,000 hits on Google within four days. Doom-loops will probably carry on as a meme, but I’m pretty sure of two things: most of the public will remain unaware of how quickly the climate could become broken – AND UK residents will keep flying to Spain in winter – even as the Spanish climate becomes more like the Sahara. Where is the space for this new risk awareness to take root? Listen to the interview for Simon’s answer.
Texas is roasting in triple digit heat, week after week. Canada is still on fire. Heat blisters break out all over the world, including India and China, going beyond human endurance. Oceans have never been so hot. Where are we and what is happening?
Paul Beckwith is the Canadian scientist who tracks extreme climate change. He taught climate science at Canadian Universities. Paul reported for Radio Ecoshock from the COP26 Climate conference in Glasgow. He makes science simple for the rest of us, on his popular YouTube channel.
In June, Beckwith posted the YouTube video “Canada’s Boreal Still Going Up in Smoke”. The EU’s Copernicus satellite monitoring system just announced Canadian fire smoke has reached Europe. This is really a global event.
Another underestimated stress point is simply having enough food for over 8 billion people. So I watched Paul’s video called “Wheat Yields in USA and China Threatened by Heat Waves Breaking Enzymes”.
Just the prospect of losing wheat from Ukraine was enough to destabilize parts of Africa and the Middle East. It was so important the two enemies agreed to get the grain ships out through the Black Sea, even during war. What does that tell us?
Now they claim the immediate threat of Artificial Intelligence is more important than climate change – despite the global heat wave in the Northern Hemisphere. We hear strong voices from developers saying within 6 months AI will be learning on it’s own, going beyond human understanding. Are we creating the first alien intelligence on Earth? We hear selections from Israeli scholar Yuval Noah Harari – at the Future of Life Institute and on the popular Jordan Harbinger podcast (with over 10 million downloads). Tune in next week.
I’m Alex. Thank you for listening, and caring about our world.