Canadian wildfires
NASA image of the wildfires burning across Alberta and British Columbia in Canada on May 6. NASA Earth Observatory image by Lauren Dauphin, using MODIS data from NASA EOSDIS LANCE and GIBS/WORLDVIEW.

Earth’s climate system is in a state of emergency. Emergencies are defined by four specific elements; i.e., (1) seriousness (2) unexpected (3) dangerous, and (4) requiring immediate action. Based upon a new YouTube broadcast by the inveterate commentator Dr. Peter Carter, all those elements are in-play in a very big way.

Dr. Carter, expert reviewer of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and director of the Climate Emergency Institute, posted a 26:33 minute YouTube update on the status of our climate system: Climate Emergency Update September 2023. [watch embedded video below] In his broadcast, the elements of an emergency are clearly related to the planet’s climate system.

Dr. Carter’s broadcasts are closely followed by people looking for answers to what’s really happening. Indeed, it is rare, in fact, almost impossible to find a source that truly lays it out without pulling any punches. His presentations are excellent, filled with factually backed statements that are brought to life with emphasis. Indeed, Dr. Carter is a rare personality, a breath of fresh air in today’s world of cynicism, disinformation, and the tendency to ignore difficult choices, especially the challenging status of the planet’s climate system. It is the one thing that we must “get right.”

The following synopsis, including editorial comment, highlights the issues as seen by Dr. Peter Carter:

In his opening statement he starts by reporting the state of the climate today as “worse… than ever before,” emphasizing the fact that it’s actually “much worse than ever before.” He suggests: “If it seems to you that the climate situation is getting worse, yes, it is. There’s no question about that, and it’s been getting worse for a long time. That’s what the science has told us, for example, in scientifically based assessments by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).”

For years, his motto has been: “Everything is getting worse faster.”

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) identifies the climate’s status as “a major climate disruption that’s driven by atmospheric CO2.”  In that regard, the risks to the planet’s climate system have increased substantially, as atmospheric CO2 and methane are higher than they’ve ever been whilst increasing faster than ever before. Carter: “It’s a recipe for an overwhelmingly destructive global warming scenario.” And, frankly, that’s what’s been starting to appear on TV.

Ocean surface temperature has been off-the-charts, rapidly increasing like never before. According to Carter: Fossil fuel impact is adding heat to the oceans at the rate of 10 Hiroshima bombs per second. Moreover, he claims it’s at least that amount and some sources claim it’s even higher than 10 Hiroshima bombs per second. Of course, one problem with comparisons like 10 Hiroshima bombs/second is the impossibility of imagining that scope, which unfortunately causes people to fail to get it.

Meanwhile, the hard truth is that it was thirty years ago 1992 in Rio de Janeiro at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change that 166 countries initially agreed that global warming needed to be counteracted. Over the subsequent 30 years nothing has happened. Meantime, the science has been hard at work, essentially confirming: “We are headed for the collapse of the biosphere… we are on a rapid trend of biosphere collapse” (YouTube, 4:52 min).

This fatal destiny of biosphere collapse is the result of a world economy agenda that’s designed “to burn all of the fossil fuels.” However, as if by the sleight of hand, it’s claimed, by pro-growth and pro-fossil fuel interests, we’ll be able to geo-engineer our way out of the quagmire of excessive atmospheric Co2, not-to-worry. But, according to Dr. Carter: “That is absolute nonsense.” More on the carbon capture ruse later.

The Methane Threat

Methane is coming into focus as an extremely troublesome threat with scientists on edge like never before. Over the past couple of years, since 2019-20, methane emissions have been explosive, which is precisely how scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) refer to today’s methane emissions: “Explosive!”

 Even worse yet, Carter highlights what he refers to as “the newest terrible news”: “We have methane feedback,” meaning the explosive increase in methane emissions is hands free on auto pilot; it’s the wetlands! This is really bad news because the feedback is literally running wild. Carter: “This is what we have been dreading for decades.”

Even more troubling yet, most scientific models have claimed we did not have to worry about this specific event; i.e., self-reinforcing methane emissions, until the end of the century. Carter: “Well, it’s here now; it’s here big time.”  The problem is not a small one as wetlands hold double the amount of carbon as forests. According to David Archer, in one of his carbon climate publications, the climate has never had as much carbon aboard as it has now, and it’s mostly in wetlands.

Euan Nesbit, Emeritus Professor, Earth Sciences, University of London, Honorary Fellow, Darwin College, the world’s leading scientist on methane has sounded the alarm about wetland methane feedback. He put out a paper a couple of weeks ago “that’s nothing short of terrifying.” The paper: “Atmospheric Methane: Comparison Between Methane’s Record in 2006-2022 and During Glacial TerminationsAmerican Geophysical Union, July 14, 2023.

Moreover, the ultra-dangerous East Siberian Arctic Shelf, which is loaded with methane hydrates, is possibly being compromised, see: “Seafloor Methane Tipping Point Reached!” Titanic Lifeboat Academy, September 18, 2023.

Methane explosiveness is likely one of the factors behind: “July was the hottest month ever on record.” According to NASA, the Northern Hemisphere was almost 1.7°C. Of course, one month does not make a year, but throughout the planet, for example, all of Europe, temperatures above the dreaded 1.5°C and/or 2.0°C continue to pop up, almost like a permanent trend. It’s unnerving and signaling a very early arrival of inhospitable ecosystems, like what’s already happening in northern Canada and all across the northern reaches of the Northern Hemisphere.

As a result, crazy things happen at both poles. For example, suddenly, Antarctica’s sea ice has become something to worry about after decades of “no worries.” It reached record lows in February 2023, and even worse, when it refreezes, it does so at a slower and slower pace. Carter: “This is a very, very bad, complex, disturbing, disrupting thing that’s happening in Antarctica.” (FYI -There are some well-known Antarctic experts who’ve flat-out said they are scared)

All the while, as the biosphere is experiencing massive intense disturbing, disrupting threats to ecosystems that literally support life, governments are pushing for more and more fossil fuels. According to The Economist, there will be no slowdown in extraction and burning of fossil fuels. According to the IPCC 6th Assessment, because of fossil fuel emissions increasing: “We are looking at temperature increases that are way far-out, totally unprecedented.” (YouTube, 12:40) A scientific paper that came out earlier this year made the point that the temperature rate of increase over the past decade was unprecedented.

Honestly, you only had to turn on the TV news over the past summer to know about unprecedented temperatures and the relationship to human-caused global warming. As such, global warming is slowly going mainstream, causing people to cock their heads to one side as if to question, “what’s going on and is this real news or is it fake news?” Poorly educated people claim it’s fake or totally exaggerated. But is it?

Another disturbing issue is drought conditions throughout the world – NASA’s Grace satellites are the most reliable measurements of drought. And nowhere is drought more responsible for climate chaos than Canada. Canada’s massive fires are driven by global warming; a recent study of Grace data shows the entire north of Canada in severe drought fed by global surface warming. It’s a massive climate catastrophe that simply will not stop and likely one of the worst most disheartening and threatening scenarios of the decade.

Moreover, another major concern detected by Grace satellites: “All of Europe is subject to ground water depletion drought.” In fact, the EU officially made mention of this at the beginning of the year in a public statement. What could possibly be worse? Already, consequences were on display in France and Italy when over 100 towns and villages ran out of ground water during the summer of 2022, governments scrambled to temporarily truck-in bottled water.

Last year (2022) was a record-year of unprecedented mega disasters. And 2023 is similar. All of this is being driven by fossil fuels. The Economist claims oil production/consumption will be higher in 2030 than it is today, as well as increased use of coal, because increased heat waves in China and India require extraordinary measures for air conditioning, requiring more power plant production. They easily turn to coal.

Dr. Carter issued what he refers to as “the worst news ever” … the IMF recently published an assessment of fossil fuel subsidies worldwide of $7,000,000,000,000 in 2022. Meaning governments are subsidizing the destruction of the planet at the rate of $13M per minute. Ten years ago, it was $5 trillion for one year. He believes this is why young people rightfully protest fossil fuels.

Governments must act immediately to stop fossil fuels because the entire climate system is starting to turn inside out. For example, approximately 50% of emissions are absorbed by the carbon sinks of land and ocean. But boreal forests are on fire, emitting carbon, not absorbing carbon. Boreal forests circumnavigate the planet and are absolutely vital for our survival. They are vital to all life. Canada alone has had 5,936 boreal fires to date this year. The burned area is 58,687 square miles, a figure that boggles the mind.

According to Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Services, boreal forests in regions all over the world have experienced the worst wildfires in recorded history. As a result of the world’s major forests burning, emitting carbon instead of absorbing it, the year-over-year increase in Co2 from July 2022 to July 2023 was a record high increase of 3,29 ppm, 422.14 ppm versus 418.85, a massive increase.

The big question: What can we do?  Carter: “We must recognize that we have an enemy, which is fossil fuels.”

We must act now because our greatest asset and one of our last lines of defense for life on the planet, the boreal forest, is burning, emitting CO2 instead of absorbing it. Carter: “This is beyond critical!!!” The boreal forest is the largest forest area of the world, covering one-tenth of the world’s land, wrapped around the entire Northern Hemisphere. It feeds our lungs and stores our carbon. Without it, we fail.

“Extreme wildfires are turning the world’s largest forest ecosystem from carbon sink into net-emitter.” (Source: Alaska Beacon, March 2023) How can this not be anything other than a worldwide emergency?

In summation, Dr. Carter’s update emphasizes six major categories (1) ocean surface temperatures off the charts (2) impending biosphere collapse (3) the methane threat coming unglued, way too early (4) world government policies continue to favor fossil fuels, more than ever (5) severe worldwide drought (6) loss of boreal forests – a key lifeline.

COP28/Dubai, the meeting of the nations of the world on climate change, starts in a few weeks. It’s likely that oil and gas interests will claim carbon removal and sequestration will save our asses. That’s extremely doubtful. (“Carbon Capture Has a Long History of Failure“, Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, September 2022)

According to the US EPA’s description of carbon capture: “It’s technologies that are not economically or technically feasible for widespread use.”

And according to a recent Al Gore speech, Orca (Iceland), the first large-scale carbon dioxide removal plant’s operations are being improved enough so that, in 7 years, each DAC unit will be able to capture 27 seconds worth of annual worldwide emissions. There are 8 units, do the math!

More to the point, according to Dr. Carter: “It is absolute nonsense.”


Robert Hunziker (MA, economic history, DePaul University) is a freelance writer and environmental journalist whose articles have been translated into foreign languages and appeared in over 50 journals, magazines, and sites worldwide. 

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