Global Warming Is Still Accelerating, in Three Graphs

Yves here. Tom Neuburger continues to document the high cost of global warming inertia.

By Thomas Neuburger. Originally published at God’s Spies

This is your regular reminder that no one of consequence is doing anything about the issue of most consequence. Consider the three graphs presented here.

Global Temperature Rise

The first (above) shows year-by-year global temperatures since 1941 (source here). The black line shows the trend line for the entire chart. Does that look like acceleration to you?

Atlantic Ocean Sea Surface Temperature

Now consider the chart below (source here). It shows surface temperature in the Atlantic Ocean from January 1940 through February 2024.

If the segment from 2020 to now (circled in blue on the far right) doesn’t look like acceleration, your optician may need to check your prescription.

Total Energy Imbalance

Here’s related data. It shows the overall “energy imbalance” — energy in minus energy out — averaged over the whole of the planet. (The source is here.)

The timeline (x-axis) for this chart is restricted to just the last ten years. The area under the top yellow line shows “Absorbed Solar Radiation” (energy in). The area under the lower red line shows “Outgoing Radiation” (energy out).

The difference, the area between the two lines in pure yellow, is net radiation, energy in less energy out, in this case heat retained by the planet.

Starting around 2014, energy in, the yellow line, starts climbing, while around 2017, outgoing radiation, the red line, flattens. The result is an increase in energy retained. This is clear from the chart. Note that the yellow area noticeably increases, grows fatter.

In 2004, energy retained across the entire planetary surface averaged +0.4 W/m2 (Watts per square meter). Just 10 years later, energy retained rose to +1.4 W/m2, a three-fold increase. New heat is being added at an accelerating rate.

Post-Climate GNP

World GNP — the economic sum of global economic activity — topped $100 trillion in 2022.

What will be the sum of global economic activity after the population is reduced to a tenth or less and almost everyone is tribal and pre-agricultural? Zero, perhaps?

So, how much of the current economy would you sacrifice to prevent the future economy from complete collapse?

The answer, if one is a cynic, may depend on whether the “you” answering this question thinks the collapse will come during that person’s lifetime or after it.

The conventional wisdom is that the global climate crisis will come later this century. Is this why no one of consequence is doing anything about the issue of most consequence? Because the crisis will be someone else’s problem?

If this is what they think, why keep them in charge?

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  1. The Rev Kev

    I notice that for the chosen chart for Atlantic Ocean Sea Surface Temperatures, they chose the North and South Atlantic. This was a deliberate choice as we are talking about the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) here where warm water goes north and cold water goes south. As that warm current heads north, it dives down deep in the northern latitudes and the warmth is released into the atmosphere. As the prevailing winds blow from west to east, that warm air is blown over Europe which gives it it’s mild climate. If rising temperatures shut the AMOC down, then expect radical changes in weather patters, particularly for Europe where more blankets and winter clothing will be needed-

    Could something have been done earlier? For sure but here I blame the Neocons for this not happening. Instead of the world concentrating on these vital issues, the international Neocons have diverted all attention, resources and finances into trying to build a world-wide Hegemony for the past thirty years. We should be doing something now but the Neocon’s war in the Ukraine has sucked the life out of most other issues which includes global warming and next year as part of this Hegemony effort, they will be concentrating on China. Meanwhile, temperatures continue to rise.

    1. ACF

      The 2000 election in the US was the most consequential for the planet because instead of a President Gore acting to minimize climate change, we got an oil man happy to facilitate the fossil fuel industry’s lying PR campaign. We spend a quarter century making everything worse instead of better

      1. mrsyk

        No. Even if he wanted to, no. If the 2000 election was the most consequential it would be because it legitimized cheating.

      2. Henry Moon Pie

        Remember that Gore’s solution was electrification. Let me know when a politician says to the American people: “You’re going to have to drive a lot less.” Jimmy couldn’t even get them to drive slower for “national security.”

        We’re trapped in a system that’s set to “Self-Destruct.” It took decades to build a society that worships profit and consumption. Gore wasn’t going to change that. He raised the problem, but he avoided the only real solution because he knew that the one thing that’s sure to end political careers in the USA in letting gas get too expensive.

    2. JonnyJames

      This all started before the so-called neoconservatives gained any power. Plus, I would say that “neocon” foreign policy and traditional (“Realist”) US foreign policy have the same goal of maintaining US global hegemony. The only difference is the “neocons” are more reckless, and the US has become more and more institutionally corrupt. (neocons also need to compensate for their moral, physical and intellectual inadequacy by posing as “tough talking” saber-rattling, warmongers. Pathetically, they would soil themselves if presented with any personal danger.

      Some said many decades ago that capitalism was unsustainable, not just “Marxists”. But simply put: unlimited private property, and unlimited “growth” are not sustainable with finite resources. Environmental destruction is counted as “economic growth” so there are powerful incentives to destroy the place for short-term profits.

      “I got mine Jack, fuck the planet, and fuck everyone else” is what George Carlin might have said.

    3. clarky90

      Thank God we can trust the data, being published by trustworthy, Eco-Climate Scientists, in the completely Ethical, Climate-Science Journals!

  2. ACF

    Our old climate can be conceptualized as a dynamic equilibrium of weather in which the weather was constantly changing but the boundaries within which it changed were relatively constant. Dynamic equilibriums can be shifted by adding/removing energy, among other methods. We have added, and are still adding, a tremendous amount of energy into the climate system, forcing the dynamic equilibrium to shift. However, our climate is such a big system with so many interconnected dynamics that it had a lot of inertia.

    Imagine a big, heavy car from the 1950s fully loaded powered by a 4-cylinder engine. Flooring the gas would barely cause it to move, but once it did, it would ever so slowly accelerate until the inertia was overcome and then it would accelerate much more rapidly. Imagine there was no limit to the power the engine could exert to continue the acceleration, so long as the gas tank was magically and constantly replenished.

    Have we added enough energy to overcome our climate system’s inertia yet? Maybe. Personally I think that’s what the accelerated change is all about, and the wild weather we’ve been experiencing is nothing compared to what’s coming in the very very near term as our adding energy to the climate system continues to shift the potential next equilibrium ever further over the horizon. That is, the climate can’t stabilize, we can’t have a new “climate”, that is, a new normal of weather patterns, until we not only stop adding heat trapping gases to the climate system, but also all the gases we’ve already added finish trapping all the heat they can. Given the feedback loops we’ve already started, like the permafrost melting (among many others) I have no idea how we stop forcing the climate equilibrium to keep shifting.

    This coming hurricane season may be the harbinger with its record warm water and La Nina threat. Just as a matter of physics, the hot ocean water means hurricanes can form in parts of the ocean they could not before and they can be sustained and thus travel to parts of the ocean they formerly could not. Moreover the hotter ocean and climate change more generally will shift air currents as compared to the prior norms, so how storms are steered will change. Maybe we’ll get really lucky this year, but I suggest anyone on the US east and gulf coasts prune and remove any tree hazards before June…

    To be clear, I recognize that we can do a lot to reduce the consequences of our actions to date; I’m not suggesting we give up on the problem at all. But I think the analogy to a dynamic equilibrium + inertia analogy helps convey what’s going on and offers a plausible narrative for why change will continue to accelerate. I think most people have radically underestimate how fast big change can come.

  3. lyman alpha blob

    These days you don’t need to do much more than look out the window to grasp what’s happening. There is a grocery store near me built right on the waterfront and the parking lot is generally about 6-10 feet above the water level depending on the tide. This past weekend after a fairly mild rain, the water was within inches of flooding the parking lot and the store. Rather alarming – parts of my town are going to become uninhabitable in the not too distant future.

  4. Henni

    With AMOC circulation slowing down and potentially stopping, it appears more likely that we are in for a global cooling. Read up on Dansgaard-Oeschger events, their natural occurrence with paleoclimate studies. Freshwater release systems have a major climate control and appear to be autonomic design

    1. mrsyk

      it appears we are in for a global cooling. Really? Maybe in the Canadian Maritimes. The AMOC is but one of many seasonings in this witches’ brew called climate change. Look at the energy imbalance chart and try to dovetail that with cooling.

    2. i just don't like the gravy

      AMOC will make Europe and the Northeast USA colder. Everywhere else will get warmer b/c they no longer get cool Arctic water flowing South.

      1. Martin Oline

        Probably true and I trimmed my trees last year. We live in interesting times and I hope to live long enough to see my own disaster movie. The Caribbean and Gulf currents will continue to circulate but will extend East into the Atlantic where the water is not as cool as it is up North. A hotter Atlantic coast may draw the hurricanes from Africa up towards New England but as we saw with Ian a relatively small tropical storm in the Caribbean can rapidly become a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico.

  5. mrsyk

    This post is important because it takes a shy look at abrupt catastrophic climate change as the author is emphasizing acceleration.
    Last year’s brutal wildfire season began in March (checks calendar, oh).

  6. Jason Boxman

    LOL, the NY Times has a graph today showing that power usage is going up again in the United States; Meanwhile, simple steps like outright banning BTC mining in the US don’t seem to be anywhere near on the table, and BTC has reached historic highs again. Fun times. The elite in this country are too deluded and busy gratifying themselves to take notice of the real stakes here, or to effort any serious initiatives. Not even electric transportation seems to be a serious effort, however woefully inadequate it may be.

    1. CA

      March 13, 2024

      A New Surge in Power Use Is Threatening U.S. Climate Goals
      A boom in data centers and factories is straining electric grids and propping up fossil fuels.
      By Brad Plumer and Nadja Popovich

      Something unusual is happening in America. Demand for electricity, which has stayed largely flat for two decades, has begun to surge.

      Over the past year, electric utilities have nearly doubled their forecasts of how much additional power they’ll need by 2028 as they confront an unexpected explosion in the number of data centers, an abrupt resurgence in manufacturing driven by new federal laws, and millions of electric vehicles being plugged in.

      Many power companies were already struggling to keep the lights on, especially during extreme weather, and say the strain on grids will only increase…

      1. Henry Moon Pie

        Note the reference to “resurgence in manufacturing.” One of the clever things about offshoring manufacturing was not only labor and regulatory arbitrage but also shifting CO2 emissions to China, India, etc. “Oh lookie! We’re decoupling in the USA!” No, you weren’t.

      2. ISL

        A boom in data centers and factories”

        Hmmm. the article only provide info on data centers and electric vehicles – the factories is assumed because of tax breaks, but no data, and in any case, there is no evidence of any resurgence in manufacturing (cant even increase production of 155 mm shells for Ukraine, despite throwing all the money the DOD can at the problem).

        What a surprise – a lack of investment in the grid leads to power failures.

        oh, and
        shows that power usage was flat for only a decade (since the 2008 crash) so the article couldnt even get that right (5 seconds with google).

        Not a NYT fan.

  7. CA

    [ It appears we are in for a global cooling… ]

    I do not understand the way this assertion is explained, but all the science I do understand suggests strongly we are in for sustained global warming:

    December, 2008

    Target Atmospheric CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim?
    By James Hansen, Makiko Sato, Pushker Kharecha, David Beerling, Robert Berner, Valerie Masson-Delmotte, Mark Pagani, Maureen Raymo, Dana L. Royer and James C. Zachos


    Paleoclimate data show that climate sensitivity is ~ 3°C for doubled CO2, including only fast feedback processes. Equilibrium sensitivity, including slower surface albedo feedbacks, * is ~ 6°C for doubled CO2 for the range of climate states between glacial conditions and ice-free Antarctica. Decreasing CO2 was the main cause of a cooling trend that began 50 million years ago, the planet being nearly ice-free until CO2 fell to 450 ± 100 ppm; barring prompt policy changes, that critical level will be passed, in the opposite direction, within decades. If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm ** to at most 350 ppm, but likely less than that. The largest uncertainty in the target arises from possible changes of non-CO2 forcings. *** An initial 350 ppm CO2 target may be achievable by phasing out coal use except where CO2 is captured and adopting agricultural and forestry practices that sequester carbon. If the present overshoot of this target CO2 is not brief, there is a possibility of seeding irreversible catastrophic effects. ****

    * Surface reflectivity of sun’s radiation

    ** Currently ~ 423 ppm:

    *** Net change in radiant emittance or irradiance


    1. cfraenkel

      Of course. The ‘we’re in for cooling’ is a parochial view that the only place that matters is the shores of the North Atlantic. The AMOC (popularly known as the Gulf Stream) sends warm water up from the Caribbean, along the Eastern US coast, and ends up warming Northern Europe, while colder denser water flows down from the Arctic to balance it. If this stops, the Eastern US and Northern Europe will see much colder winters. (Plus a huge assortment of other knock on effects)

      Claiming this is ‘we are in for a global cooling’ is glib, dishonest trolling.

      1. CA

        The ‘we’re in for cooling’ is a parochial view that the only place that matters is the shores of the North Atlantic…

        [ Perfectly explained, though the contention about the “Atlantic meridional overturning circulation” is rather a speculation. ]

        1. Henry Moon Pie

          Funny how that works. China seems to have a government that attempts to solve problems that they anticipate.

          Here in the USA, we privatize essentials and put our faith in the Almighty Invisible Hand.

          1. CA

            “China seems to have a government that attempts to solve problems that they anticipate…”

            A fundamentally important observation, which the national congress that just concluded would seem to make clear. Nicely observed.

    2. Jeremy Grimm

      The Earth’s climate system is a complex nonlinear system that Humankind has assaulted with what amounts to a step increase in a key parameter — atmospheric CO2. One consequence is a significant increase in the amount of the sun’s heat energy which remains in the Earth’s climate system. This so-called Global Warming is hardly a simple increase in the Earth’s temperature as the IPCC so cunningly frames the matter with their focus on the CO2 doubling coefficient. Paleoclimate data, indicates that past transitions of the climate system were anything but gradual, gentle, or simple shifts in the USDA growing zones. Past climate transitions reach tipping points and change rapidly. Warming can result in rapid cooling in some parts of the world. Slow increases in sea level can suddenly increase. The climate can transition from hot to cold to hotter and colder again. Even simple linear systems will oscillate if they are not critically damped. I know too little about nonlinear systems to even guess how they might respond to a step increase like the CO2 increase Humankind has made to atmospheric CO2. I am not a climate scientist, but I have the impression many questions trouble them as they study the full complexities of the climate system as those complexities become exposed through this transition and through painstaking study of past climate transitions.

      Geoengineering ideas might be helpful if somehow climate scientists can record and preserve what they discover as we transition from comfortable Earth climate to a new less comfortable environment. Once the climate system and its dynamics are better known and characterized it might be feasible to slowly transition to a more comfortable planet, assuming Humankind still controls the resources and capabilities that would be needed. Attempting geoengineering now, with so much unknown, seems extremely dangerous to me. We already have a geoengineering experiment ongoing. So far the results of that experiment hardly recommend launching another mindless experiment.

  8. CA

    The concentration of atmospheric CO2 has set a new record every year since recording began in 1959, while the rate of growth of atmospheric CO2 has been increasing. These last 12 months have been by far the warmest recorded since modern measurement began in 1880. Every month from June 2023 through February 2024 has been by far the warmest such month recorded since 1880.

    January 15, 2024

    Average Global Temperature, 2023-2024

    (Degrees Celsius)


    Jan ( 14.87) 7th warmest month *
    Feb ( 14.97) 4th warmest
    Mar ( 15.20) 2nd warmest
    Apr ( 15.00) 4th warmest
    May ( 14.93) 3rd warmest
    Jun ( 15.08) warmest
    Jul ( 15.19) warmest
    Aug ( 15.19) warmest
    Sep ( 15.48) warmest
    Oct ( 15.34) warmest
    Nov ( 15.42) warmest
    Dec ( 15.35) warmest

    Average ( 15.17) warmest year


    Jan ( 15.22) warmest month
    Feb ( 15.44) warmest

    * Warmth of the month and year relative to that month or year at any time since 1880

  9. New_Okie

    I admit, I see very little hope that we humans can agree to voluntarily cut emissions sufficiently to avoid catastrophe. After all, we saw what happened to German industry when they cut emissions just a bit. And how will they fight a war with Russia and China without industry? Plus there are all of the other issues I have read about here, from the limited availability of certain metals necessary for renewable energy production to the tendency of humans to take a new energy source as an excuse to use more energy.

    So at this point my eggs are in the Deus Ex Machina basket. So I was happy to see an article claiming that “no, really” this time fusion power might be around the corner.

    A poll at the International Atomic Energy Agency’s forum in London found that 65pc of insiders think fusion will generate electricity for the grid at viable cost by 2035, and 90pc by 2040.

    I cannot tell if I am a sucker willing to believe something because the alternative is too frightening or if this really might happen. And I also wonder whether the nearly infinite electricity would be, in the end, beneficial for humanity. But it does seem like it would neutralize one extinction level threat. And at this point I am more willing to hitch my wagon to something 90% of IAEA “insiders” think could happen than to the hope that humans will decide to voluntarily stop burning stuff for gain.

    Am I just high on hopium? Or is this actually a possibility? I thought it was interesting, at any rate.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      Back in the 1970s I expected fusion power was just around the corner … but it was not. Happy predictions for fusion power are made, were made, and have been made.

      My pessimism about fusion power extends beyond technical issues. Suppose some project succeeded in producing economically and technically viable fusion power generation. I wonder how the Fossil Fuel Industrial Complex would respond to the news. Perhaps some other nation or other nations, free from the blessings conferred on Corporate Cartels like those lavished on u.s. Corporate Cartels might be able to transcend the restraints the u.s. system places on innovation. Perhaps some ‘green’ giant might conquer the Fossil Fuels Giants through substantial and sufficient pecuniary inducements proffered upon our loyal public servants in the Congress and White House.

      I am not optimistic about the future.

  10. Pookah Harvey

    Richard Spinrad, administrator of NOAA:
    “I suspect some aspects of geoengineering are going to be an important component of the solution to reducing global warming, and all of the impacts of global climate change, like ocean acidification.”

    Why try rational solutions to a problem when oligarchs can profit from insane ones?

    1. mrsyk

      Every one of us will be begging for geoengineering before long. I have my doubts about successful outcomes.

        1. Thomas Neuburger

          It will be “successful” for the oligarchs.

          Or disastrous for absolutely everyone, oligarchs included.


          1. steppenwolf fetchit

            My feeling is that if you were many times more cynical, you would ask the following question: if the “you” answering the complete collapse question thinks your own social class descendants will survive with just enough economy to stay comfortable, and you think that everyone else’s descendants ( billions and billions of “not our class, dear” people) will die off, why wouldn’t you deliberately support global warming and keep it in place until “our class of people, dear” were the only class of people left alive?

            That answer is: well of course “you” would, and of course “they” do. Its their Long Killoff Plan for all the billions and billions of the rest of us.

    2. Jeremy Grimm

      We already have an extremely large scale geoengineering experiment underway. Adding other experiments will only obscure the results we can learn from the ongoing experiment. Besides, no new experiment could possibly reach a scale to match the step increase in atmospheric CO2 we are presently introducing to the climate system.

  11. ISL

    I really like low grade science – good for a laugh.

    If one of my grad students tried to fit a line 1941-2022 I would send him/her back to redo. Its obvious there was a change in slope around 1975, and a line 1975-2022 is linear, with a jump in 2023 for El Nino. There are things called T-tests and other statistics for this, which I am sure the author could not be bothered with. Yes, temps are increasing. No, it is not accelerating.

    And certainly not accelerating.

    Ocean temp, same damn thing (slope shift 1985) with El Nino explaining the recent excursion.

    In terms of the energy balance, very scary, but it all depends where the energy goes. If it goes into the ocean, it has no import for centuries, If it goes into the arctic ice sheet – very big impact.

    To summarize, bad science like this gives ammunition to climate deniers.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      While I agree that this post might have selected a better graph than the June-February Temperature Time Series with its ‘trend line’ as background for its question, “Does that look like acceleration to you?” The graph of Sea Surface Temperature Anomaly does look like acceleration to my tired old eyes — even allowing for the effects of El Nino.

      This post is not a study in statistics or their interpretation. I believe its claim that global warming is accelerating is based on the recent paper by Hansen et al. “Global warming in the pipeline”. I believe you will find a more sophisticated justification there for the claim that global warming is accelerating.

      “To summarize, bad science like this gives ammunition to climate deniers.”
      I believe this post would be more accurately characterized as a report of recent findings from climate science. It is definitely not a science publication per se and the Science it is based upon can be easily accessed through the web.

      I think the most important finding in “Warming in the Pipeline” is impact of aerosols on the rate of warming and the need to better measure and model aerosols.

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