Human-caused global warming has continued at an "unprecedented rate" since the last major assessment of the climate system was published two years ago, according to 50 renowned scientists.
According to one of the researchers, the study was a "welcome wake-up call," emphasising the current lack of effective and timely climate action. This message comes as climate experts assemble in Bonn to prepare for the big COP28 climate conference, which will be held in the UAE this December. The summit will include an assessment of our progress towards the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C by 2050.
Given the rapid changes in the global climate system, the scientists say that governments, climate negotiators, and civil society groups must have access to up-to-date and rigorous scientific knowledge on which to base choices.
The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the authoritative source of scientific information on the state of the climate, but the turnaround time for its major assessments is five or ten years, creating a "information gap," especially when climate indicators are changing rapidly.
The scientists created an open data, open science platform - the Indicators of Global Climate Change and website - as part of a project sponsored by the University of Leeds. Every year, it will update data on critical climatic indicators.
Professor Piers Forster, Director of the Priestley Centre for Climate Futures at Leeds, is in charge of coordinating the Indicators of Global Climate Change Project. "This is the critical decade for climate change," he remarked.
"Decisions made now will influence how much temperatures rise and the extent and severity of the consequences."
"Long-term warming rates are currently at an all-time high, owing to unprecedented levels of greenhouse gas emissions." However, research suggests that the rate of rise in greenhouse gas emissions has moderated.
"In the face of climate change, we must be quick on our feet." Policy and approaches must be revised in light of the most recent knowledge concerning the state of the climate system. We no longer have time on our side. Access to up-to-date information is critical."
The scientists reported how key indicators have evolved since the publication of the IPCC's Sixth Assessment Working Group 1 report in 2021--which produced the primary data that fed into the subsequent IPCC Sixth Synthesis Report--in the journal Earth System Science Data.
Human-caused warming, mostly due to the usage of fossil fuels, reached an average of 1.14°C over pre-industrial levels in the most recent decade (2013-2022). This is an increase from 1.07°C between 2010 and 2019.
Human-caused warming is presently accelerating at a rate of more than 0.2°C every decade.
The study also discovered that greenhouse gas emissions were "at an all-time high," with human activity causing an average of 54 (+/-5.3) gigatonnes (or billion metric tonnes) of carbon dioxide to be released into the atmosphere each year over the last decade (2012-2021).
There has been a beneficial shift away from coal-fired power plants, but this has come at a short-term cost in that it has contributed to global warming by reducing particle pollution in the air, which has a cooling effect.
"An annual update of key indicators of global change is critical in helping the international community and countries to keep the urgency of addressing the climate crisis at the top of the agenda and for evidence-based decision-making," said Professor Maisa Rojas Corradi, Chile's Minister of Environment, IPCC author, and a scientist involved in this study.
"In line with the Paris Agreement's "ratchet-mechanism" of increasing ambition, we need scientific information about emissions, concentration, and temperature as frequently as possible to keep international climate negotiations current and to be able to adjust and, if necessary, correct national policies."
The pace of decline in what is known as the remaining carbon budget, an estimate of how much carbon may be released into the atmosphere to give a 50% chance of keeping global temperature rise within 1.5°C, is one of the study's significant results.
The IPCC estimated the remaining carbon budget in 2020 to be roughly 500 gigatonnes of CO2. By the beginning of 2023, the number had dropped to around 250 gigatonnes of CO2.
The predicted remaining carbon budget has been reduced as a result of continuous emissions since 2020 and updated predictions of human-induced warming.
"Even though we are not yet at 1.5°C warming, the carbon budget will likely be exhausted in a few years as we have a triple whammy of heating from very high CO2 emissions, heating from increases in other GHG emissions, and heating from pollution reductions," Professor Forster said.
"If we don't want to see the 1.5°C goal fade into obscurity, the world must work much harder and more urgently to reduce emissions."
"Our goal with this project is to help the key players urgently make that important work happen by providing them with up-to-date and timely data."
"This robust update shows intensifying heating of our climate driven by human activities," stated Dr. Valérie Masson-Delmotte of Université Paris Saclay, who co-chaired Working Group 1 of the IPCC's Sixth Assessment report and was engaged in the climate indicators research. It is a timely wake-up call for the Paris Agreement's 2023 global stocktake - the pace and scale of climate action are insufficient to halt the escalation of climate-related dangers."
Recent IPCC reports have firmly demonstrated that as global warming continues, the frequency and intensity of climate extremes, such as heat extremes, heavy rainfall, and agricultural droughts, increase.
The Indicators of Global Climate Change will include annual updates on greenhouse gas emissions, man-made global warming, and the remaining carbon budget.
The website expands on the Climate Change Tracker, a successful climate dashboard established by software developers who took concepts from the finance industry on how to communicate difficult information to the public.
Sixth Assessment Report (AR6)
Greenhouse gas emissions (decadal average)
53 GtCO2e (2010-2019)
54 Gt CO2e (2012-2021)
Human-induced warming since preindustrial times
Remaining carbon budget (1.5C, 50% chance)
About 250 GtCO2 and very uncertain