Bearing Witness to Climate Change January 2022

The UK-based Climate Brief organization and website issued their climate data for 2021which confirmed another year of record ocean heat content, rising surface temperatures, extreme weather events, sea level rise, declining sea ice, and of course, rising levels of CO2 and methane in the atmosphere.

Preliminary data from European scientists with the Copernicus Climate Change Service report that last year, 2021, was the planet’s fifth hottest year. The seven hottest years on record have been the last seven years. Some regions like the US and Europe reported experiencing their hottest summers on record.

According to preliminary data from NASA and NOAA, global temperatures in 2021 averaged 1.1 degree C above those prior to the industrial age. Temperatures are rising about .20 of a degree per decade.

A new article in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences reports that the world’s oceans soaked up more heat and set record high temperatures during 2021. The second warmest water year was 2020, and the third was 2019. Scientists say that the planet’s oceans absorb about a third of the CO2 humans emit into the atmosphere. As a result, more than 90% of the heat generated over the pasts 50 years has found its way into the oceans.

Greenhouse gas emissions in the US surged in 2021 by over 6% due largely to a double-digit increase in coal-powered electricity as the pandemic-stricken economy roared back to life.  Emissions from the transportation sector were also reported to have increased by 10%. President Biden has called for reducing emissions by 50% by 2030 compared to 2005 levels. To accomplish this, we should be reducing emissions by over 5% each year. Scientists now say that humans have put about 1.5 trillion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. And we are adding on at the rate of 50 gigatons a year.

Over 8% of all weather stations in the US reported breaking all-time heat records during 2021. Some locations, such as cities in the Pacific Northwest, blew past their previous record by over 10 degrees.

The central Midwest states of Kansas and Missouri reported their warmest average temperatures on record for the month of December. The average temps were over 2 degrees above their norm. Dozens of locations broke all-time high temperatures for the month, including an 80-degree Christmas day for one Kansas town. Decembers have been getting progressively warmer and dryer over the past few decades for much of the central US.

During 2021 it is reported that more than 40 percent of Americans lived in counties that were impacted by weather and climate disasters. There was rarely a week that went by when droughts, wildfires, floods, windstorms, record cold, record heat, tornados and other extreme events were not in the news.  More than 650 people died and the cost surpassed $100 billion. The economic losses from global natural disasters during 2021 was reported to be $280 billion.

A recent study from Yale University of the US public’s attitudes reports that nearly six in ten Americans are concerned or alarmed about climate change. As the effects of climate change become more obvious, those who are concerned are becoming more alarmed, nearly doubling in less than five years. Unfortunately, the percentage of the public who doubt climate change is happening or dismiss the science all together is not changing. Will anything change their minds? Or will it be like the pandemic where loved ones were dying but they still thought COVID was a hoax, and it was the vaccines killing people.

The government of Denmark publicly announced that it will suspend oil exploration due to concerns about climate change saying “The future does not lie in oil. The future belongs to renewable energy…” This is a good start at leaving billions of barrels of oil and trillions of cubic feet of natural gas in the ground.

The EU is planning to classify nuclear and natural gas as green energy. They argue that the use of nuclear and natural gas will be necessary as a transition to truly green renewable energy sources will take years if not decades.

This did not stop Germany from shutting down half of the six nuclear power plants still in operation. The remaining plants are to be decommissioned next year. However, this leaves Germany more dependent on natural gas imports from countries like Russia, that are busy creating havoc by threatening to invade Ukraine.

Many fear that the forces that fueled rampant misinformation and anti-science disinformation that slowed the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as those at work in lies about the 2020 American election, will only become worse as the world turns its attention to addressing climate change. If people will not accept the truth about vaccines that can save their lives right now, how likely are they to accept the changes and sacrifices that will be required to save the planet for future generations?

More Christians in the US are calling out evangelicals for the contradictions and hypocrisy in their attitudes about climate change, as if they had been coopeted by conservative political ideology, attending the Church of Fox News.

Young climate activist Greta Thunberg has called COP26 a failure and a PR event. In a recent interview about the state of the climate movement she went on to say that there was some progress as the f-word, fossil fuels, was finally included for the first time in the proceeding documentation.

Ice on the Great Lakes of the US is at its lowest level in decades, according to NOAA. Waters of the Great Lakes this fall were warmer than average, and the winter weather has also been warm.  As a result, forecasters predict that winter storms over the northeast will suffer from more extreme lake-effect snowfalls since more moisture can be sucked up into the lower atmosphere. The month ends with a massive winter storm dumping over two feet of snow across parts of New England, breaking one-day records for the most snowfall.

Biden’s Energy Department is proceeding with the creation of a Clean Energy Corps by hiring 1,000 workers in addition to career staff employees. The corps will support a number of initiatives including public policy, education, and renewable energy generation and transmission projects.

Drought and heat waves across the American west will require billions of dollars to make forests more wildfire resistant, resilient and fire-adaptive. Already the US spends nearly $2 billion each year on fire suppression, and that does not include the many millions lost due to damages from wildfires.

ExxonMobil announced that it aims to reach net-zero from its operations by 2050. This is quite a change for the oil giant which for years denied climate change and financed the spread of disinformation. While it is good news that corporations are stepping up to address the climate crisis, their pledge does not include Scope 3 emissions which are those emissions from the use of Exxon’s products, dwarfing those of its own operations.

Conservative legislators in states like Missouri are still in denial. Republican lawmakers there are proposing new legislation that would ban cities or counties from preparing for a future of electric vehicles by requiring charging stations in new or renovated buildings. It is estimated that by 2030 over 25% of vehicles in some cities will be electric powered.

One of the many things most Americans do not understand is that to save the planet and future generations from harm they will have to eventually give up their gas-burning stoves. About one-third or 40 million homes in the country use gas instead of electricity to cook with. And gas stoves are particularly bad due to the methane and nitrous oxide emissions. To no one’s surprise the gas industry, with the support of Republican state legislators across the country, is now working on legislation that would prohibit restrictions on the use of gas for cooking.

In the first global meeting since the Glasgow COP26 conference, US Climate Envoy John Kerry warned that the world is not on track to meet agreed-upon goals which avoid the most dangerous results of climate change and we must all move faster. One of the most disturbing trends is that instead of using less coal, last year we used nearly 10% more. Another 300 GW of coal-burning energy plants is under construction around the world at a time when we need to decommission over 800 GW of existing plants. We are going in the wrong direction.

President Xi Jinping of China said that he would not reduce emissions at the expense of other necessities that impact the normal life for the Chinese people. We are doomed if most countries act the same way by the crime against humanity of ignoring the life of future generations.

Featured image is a from Berkeley Earth non-profit at

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