Want some bad news as a lead up to the weekend? NASA just released its annual global temperature report and, lo and behold, 2023 was the hottest year on record since measurements began back in 1880. Global temperatures last year were approximately 2.1 degrees Fahrenheit (1.2 degrees Celsius) above the average for NASA’s baseline period of 1951 to 1980.
Compared to the 1880s, the planet was 2.5 degrees warmer in 2023. If you do the math, you’ll find that the vast majority of that increase occurred after NASA’s baseline period. In other words, the past several decades have been the worst of the worst. July of 2023 was the hottest month ever measured, which is a record nobody wanted or asked for but, well, here we are.
“NASA and NOAA’s global temperature report confirms what billions of people around the world experienced last year; we are facing a climate crisis,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “From extreme heat, to wildfires, to rising sea levels, we can see our Earth is changing.”
NASA’s not burying its head in the sand and pretending this is a natural phenomenon. We did this, with Gavin Schmidt, director at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), saying the temperature shift was primarily caused by “our fossil fuel emissions.”
2023 was not an outlier. The past ten consecutive years have been the warmest on record. To that end, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently reported that 2024 has a one-in-three chance of being even hotter. Yay.
It’s also worth noting that 2023 featured some cooling events that actually worked to lower temperatures a bit, including volcanic aerosols in the atmosphere due to the January 2022 eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai underwater volcano. However, these events couldn’t keep up with constant greenhouse gas emissions and the heating effects of this year’s El Niño weather event.
“We will continue to break records as long as greenhouse gas emissions keep going up,” Schmidt said. “And, unfortunately, we just set a new record for greenhouse gas emissions again this past year.”
The Biden-Harris administration has done a few things to try to slow down our transformation into a Mad Max dystopia. The White House recently launched the U.S. Greenhouse Gas Center to make critical climate data readily available and last year’s Inflation Reduction Act set aside $369 billion for climate and clean energy programs. President Biden has also pledged to bring emission levels to at least 50 percent below what we experienced in 2005 by 2025. These are good incremental moves, of that there’s no doubt, but we seem to have sped past “f*ck around” and are careening wildly into “find out.” What was that curse again? Oh yeah. May you live in interesting times.