Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

Climate crisis is forging an unrecognisable world

Forget about the pleasures of Britain becoming a wine producer – whatever upsides the climate crisis may offer will be overwhelmed by the devastating downsides. These can already be seen not just in the heatwaves afflicting countries around the world, but other phenomena which foreshadow disastrous developments, says Richard Price. The world we leave to our children and grandchildren will be unrecognisable from the one we have grown up in, he says.

On a particularly hot day in June seven-year-old Alex Booth complained to his mother that he was worried about El Nino and the heat. His mother replied, “It’s no good telling me, I can’t fix it. If you’re worried, write about it.” She packed him off for school and he told his teacher who helped him create a weather news report.

He wrote that ‘El Nino is the warm phase of a larger phenomenon that affects the Pacific Ocean and the global climate.’ And, ‘El Nino has an impact on ocean temperatures, the speed and strength of ocean currents, the health of coastal fisheries, and local weather.’

For oceans, small changes in water temperature can have devastating consequences. Animals in the North Atlantic Ocean have been suffering an extreme marine heatwave.

According to Prof Eliot Jacobson, the North Atlantic sea surface temperature on 17 July was 24.49°C (76.08°F) which is 4.2σ°C above the 1991-2020 mean. It was also well above the previous high for 17 July, which was 23.71°C in 2020.

Temperatures are 0.7°C above record territory and 1.4°C above normal. Marine heatwaves cause ecosystem collapse, mass extinctions and mass mortality of shellfish and fish. This year global sea surface temperatures continue to rise which is an anomaly that is rapidly breaking new records.

Chart showing the daily difference in North Atlantic sea surface temperatures this year (red line – up to 12 July) compared with the 1991-2020 mean. Source:

Scientists define tipping points as critical thresholds which when crossed lead to large and often irreversible changes in the climate system. They are concerned that tipping points have already been crossed. 1997 and 2015 were very hot years due to super El Niños. The time-lag effect of an accelerating amount of oceanic heat is going to release energy and that is likely to cause a super El Niño: 2024 and 2025 are likely to be even hotter years for the oceans.

Sea ice at the North (Arctic) and South (Antarctic) poles is very important because of the so-called albedo effect, whereby the light-coloured ice reflects sunlight back into space. This regulates air and ocean temperature as well as circulating ocean water. If the sea ice is lost there will be consequences for life on Earth. Scientists say that as we increasingly lose our sea ice, a tipping point will eventually occur.

Sea ice reducing

The Antarctic sea ice extent has been monitored by satellite since 1979. In February 2023, sea ice around Antarctica reached the lowest extent ever observed since the start of the satellite record. Antarctica is losing ice mass, or melting, at an average rate of about 150bn tons per year, and Greenland is losing about 270bn tons per year.

On 31 May, the Arctic Sea ice extent was recorded as being 12.15m square kilometres (4.69 square miles), approximately 700,000 sq km below the previous daily record lows.

The Earth Energy Imbalance (EEI) is the difference between the amount of energy from the sun arriving at the Earth and the amount returning to space. EEI is now at a record 1.36 watts per square metre, which has been equated to ’11 Hiroshima’s of excess energy per second accumulating in Earth’s climate system over the past three years,’ according to the news and analysis website The Conversation.

Meanwhile a stratospheric wind anomaly is developing over the Equator which is expected to impact the weather along the El Nino in the next winter season making it colder in Europe, Canada and North America as a polar vortex is likely to develop.

The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), a system of ocean currents that carry warm water from the tropics northwards into the North Atlantic,  affecting climate all over the world, is now at its weakest in a millennium. AMOC underpins the Gulf Stream – as it weakens, it could lead to more extreme weather in Europe, and colder winters, violent thunderstorms and higher sea levels on US East coast and elsewhere.

Heat waves around the globe

Starting in April 2023, record-breaking heat waves have affected countries around the globe. In Asia they include India, Bangladesh, China, Thailand and Vietnam. In India, Karnataka’s three coal power plants, which previously had reduced demand, were set to run at full-throttle in April to meet the increased electricity demand caused by the heat wave. That is air-conditioning demand. However, the poor of India who cannot afford air-conditioning are left to suffer.

And of course it is ironic to see the effects of climate upheaval being tackled by greater use of fossil fuels.

It is not just extreme heat; The Guardian reported on 11 July that the “heaviest rain ever” triggered floods and landslides in south-west Japan.

Since March, Canada has been experiencing an ongoing record-setting series of wildfires. In June smoke from millions of hectares of burning forests drifted across into the USA, engulfing the capital in thick smoke. It is now difficult for US politicians not to acknowledge the immense scale of this undeclared emergency.

An early summer heatwave across the western US broke all-time records in multiple states, with temperatures above 38°C for days on end in some places. The extreme heat wave hit parts of the country already stuck in a deep drought. Over 20% of the country found itself in the worst two categories of drought (D3-4: Extreme and Exceptional), with the vast majority of that land located in areas that also just saw record-setting temperatures.

As has been widely reported, Europe has recently experienced an extreme heatwave that is causing wildfires, some of them threatening popular holiday destinations. Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece have already faced unrelenting heat for days. In Rome, the all-time temperature record was smashed by 2°C.

Meanwhile in the UK we experienced the hottest June on record in our first heat wave of 2023. Water became scarce enough for South East Water to introduce a temporary hosepipe ban in parts of Kent and Sussex which was only lifted in early August.

Nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history. The rate of species extinctions is accelerating, with grave impacts on people around the world now likely.

Action on limiting emissions and adhering to the UN’s International Panel on Climate Change’s targets has been ineffective. The world’s governments have constantly misled their constituents that the problem is being dealt with. However, emissions of CO2 and methane continue to rise at significant rates. According to NASA, carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere is up by about one third to 420 parts per million (ppm) since 1960, while methane emissions as measured by the Global Monitoring Laboratory have increased by more than 15% to more than 1,920 parts per billion since 1983.

The current trajectory of carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere means that the global temperature could increase by as much as 4.4°C by the end of the century – see graph below. Scientists have stated that if that happens the planet will be able to support less than a million people, rather than the current population of {however many] billion.

(Source: Jane Morton @SafeClimate’s free booklet Don’t Mention the Emergency?)

Secret courts

The situation is clearly an emergency yet global action is ineffective. The world governments are locked into the paradigm of economic growth. Legislation prevents change. In 1994, the UK government along with several other European countries signed the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT). The ECT allows oil and gas companies to use secret corporate courts to sue governments. For example, when the Italian government introduced a ban on offshore oil drilling it was sued by UK-based oil and gas company RockHopper who won £210m.

Seven EU countries, including France, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands, have already said they will quit the ECT because it undermines climate targets. In February, more than 100 academics wrote to the UK government asking them to leave the treaty but the government favours the idea of modernising it and leaving corporations with the power to sue.

The UK has become the base for corporations that want to sue governments. According to Global Justice Now, oil and gas companies are suing governments for over $18bn, and industry insiders reckon the amounts at stake could be over $9 trillion.

Government inaction is leading us on the wrong path. The heat is going to get much worse. The only path out of this nightmare is to end fossil fuel use as quickly as possible.

I am 60 years old and realise that the world that I grew up in no longer exists because the climate has changed. Seven-year-old Alex may be experiencing the coolest summer of his life. When he reaches adulthood what will the global temperature be? Do we have a democracy in the UK? A democratic government would not allow this to continue, surely?

If you’re enjoying HOT and would like us to continue providing fair and balanced reporting on local matters please consider making a donation. Click here to open our PayPal donation link.Thank you for your continued support!

Posted 16:35 Tuesday, Aug 22, 2023 In: Environment


Please read our comment guidelines before posting on HOT

  1. Tim Barton

    Hi Richard, excellent piece (as always). Sadly your rhetorical question ‘do we have a democracy?’ is answered………… well, you know what I think 😉

    Comment by Tim Barton — Thursday, Aug 24, 2023 @ 11:18

  2. Michael Madden

    Well written Richard,
    The situation in which Britain is the base for oil and gas companies to sue governments show that the climate crisis needs a political solution. This is not a democracy. It is a faced that is going to be a drving force behind our species’ decline or even demise.

    But how to move people to act? That is the quaestion.

    Very good article.

    Well done.

    Comment by Michael Madden — Tuesday, Aug 22, 2023 @ 18:47

Leave a comment

(no more than 350 words)

Also in: Environment

More HOT Stuff

    HOT is run by volunteers but has overheads for hosting and web development. Support HOT!


    Advertise your business or your event on HOT for as little as £20 per month
    Find out more…


    If you like HOT and want to keep it sustainable, please Donate via PayPal, it’s easy!


    Do you want to write, proofread, edit listings or help sell advertising? then contact us


    Get our regular digest emails

  • Subscribe to HOT