Heatwaves, High Waters, and High Stakes: 2022’s Climate Report Card

There’s no longer a debate – our planet is burning, and the alarm bells are ringing louder than ever. In a time when so many of us were busy beating the summer heat, a chilling international report dropped the ultimate temperature check on our world’s climate.

According to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 2022 was a year of shattered records. Think about this: greenhouse gases, the global sea level, and even ocean temperatures reached all-time highs. This isn’t just any report. Dubbed the “annual physical of the Earth system,” it gathered insights from over 570 scientists spanning more than 60 countries. That’s like gathering the Avengers of climate science to deliver an urgent message.

The numbers are staggering. Last year, levels of three main greenhouse gases, including the infamous carbon dioxide (CO2), hit record concentrations. To put it in perspective, CO2 levels peaked at 417.1 parts per million, which is unprecedented even when we look at data going back a whopping 800,000 years. As Paul Higgins of the American Meteorological Society put it succinctly, we humans are responsible for the most significant climate upheaval since we shifted to farming millennia ago.

But let’s dive deeper into what this means for our lived experiences. Europe went through its second-hottest year, with countries from France to England smashing temperature records. Places like China, New Zealand, and even parts of Australia felt the heat, with certain areas reaching temperatures as high as 123°F. Snow? It’s becoming a rarity in some areas. And, glaciers? They’re melting away, with those in the Swiss Alps losing a shocking 6% of their volume.

Droughts and crop failures are becoming a new norm. From the U.S. to central Chile, lands are parched and crops are dying. As prices for essential food items soar, communities are grappling with the repercussions. On the other end of the spectrum, places like Pakistan faced floods so devastating that they’ll be remembered as some of the world’s most tragic natural calamities.

Now, let’s talk about the elephant in the room: Big Oil. In a year that witnessed such climate mayhem, the fossil fuel industry laughed all the way to the bank, bagging record profits. And while our planet faced a summer of extremes, oil and gas behemoths kept their shareholders happy with lucrative stock buybacks and dividends.

But hope isn’t lost. The upcoming U.N. COP28 summit offers a chance for leaders around the globe to come together. As United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres points out, after experiencing our hottest summer, it’s time for solutions to match that heat. The young and resilient voices, like those who tune into platforms like The Young Turks, must now lead the charge. It’s high time we turned up the heat on our leaders to ensure a sustainable future for generations to come.