Offering a stark warning that humanity may have even less time to drastically cut carbon emissions than the United Nations suggested in its latest alarming report on the climate crisis, new research (pdf) published in the journal Nature on Wednesday shows that Earth’s oceans have retained 60 percent more heat each year over the past 25 years than scientists previously believed.
“This global crisis demands nothing less than swift and meaningful action by every world leader to ensure a safe and healthy future for all.”
—Michael Brune, Sierra Club”We thought that we got away with not a lot of warming in both the ocean and the atmosphere for the amount of CO2 that we emitted. But we were wrong,” Laure Resplandy, a geoscientist at Princeton University who led the new study, told the Washington Post. “The planet warmed more than we thought. It was hidden from us just because we didn’t sample it right. But it was there. It was in the ocean already.”
The U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change argued in its report released earlier this month that humanity must cut carbon emissions in half by 2030 in order to avert climate catastrophe by 2040—but that timeframe was based on previous and possibly conservative estimates of global warming.
As the Post‘s Chris Mooney and Brady Dennis noted, “higher-than-expected amount of heat in the oceans means more heat is being retained within Earth’s climate system each year, rather than escaping into space.”
“In essence,” they added, “more heat in the oceans signals that global warming is more advanced than scientists thought.”
In a statement on Wednesday, Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune argued that the new research “confirms that we have even less time to move beyond dirty fossil fuels like coal, oil, and fracked gas to an economy powered by 100 percent clean, renewable energy.”
“The world’s oceans are the canaries in the coal mine when it comes to the climate crisis. The writing has been on the wall for years,” Brune said. “This global crisis demands nothing less than swift and meaningful action by every world leader to ensure a safe and healthy future for all. The Trump administration’s continued ignorance and lack of action is wholly unacceptable, and together with our allies across the country, we will work toward a brighter, healthier, and safer future for all.”