MIT NEWS OFFICE Accelerated climate action needed to sharply reduce current risks Mark Dwortzan | MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Hottest day on record. Hottest month on record. Extreme marine heatwaves. Record-low Antarctic sea-ice.

While El Niño is a short-term factor in this year’s record-breaking heat, human-caused climate change is the long-term driver. And as global warming edges closer to 1.5 degrees Celsius — the aspirational upper limit set in the Paris Agreement in 2015 — ushering in more intense and frequent heatwaves, floods, wildfires, and other climate extremes much sooner than many expected, current greenhouse gas emissions-reduction policies are far too weak to keep the planet from exceeding that threshold. In fact, on roughly one-third of days in 2023, the average global temperature was at least 1.5 C higher than pre-industrial levels. Faster and bolder action will be needed — from the in-progress United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) and beyond — to stabilize the climate and minimize risks to human (and nonhuman) lives and the life-support systems (e.g., food, water, shelter, and more) upon which they depend.

Quantifying the risks posed by simply maintaining existing climate policies — and the benefits (i.e., avoided damages and costs) of accelerated climate action aligned with the 1.5 C goal — is the central task of the 2023 Global Change Outlook, recently released by the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change.