Cause and Effect | Why 2023 is a cautionary tale of the worsening climate crisis

GS Paper III

News Excerpt:

The year 2023 was evidence of what the climate crisis could unleash on humanity if the rising temperatures are left to spiral out of control.


  • There were extreme weather events in almost every country, millions of dollars worth of economic losses, thousands of lives lost, temperature records were broken, some of the largest sheets of ice started floating in the ocean, and the now omnipresent threat of new diseases.

Things to look out for, both good and bad for climate:

  • El Nino Impact:
    • El Nino, a natural weather phenomenon, occurred in 2023, causing double impacts of global warming and unusual warming of the Pacific.
      • Typically, it peaks in winter and can significantly affect the weather by moving the Pacific jet stream south of its neutral position.
    • The real impact of this natural weather phenomenon will only be known in 2024. 
      • High temperatures in 2023 are happening before the full warming impact of the El Nino event, typically occurring in the second year after it develops.
    • The last El Nino coincided with all-time high temperatures in 2016, followed by a prolonged three-year run of La Nina, which led to the warmest years ever recorded, highlighting the potent greenhouse gases in raising global temperatures.
  • Emission Reduction Consensus:
    • COP28 countries agreed to transition away from fossil fuels by 2030, but the agreement may have come too late as temperatures have already breached the 1.5°C threshold for several months in 2023.
    • The UN Environment Programme report revealed that global greenhouse gas emissions increased by 1.2% from 2021 to 2022, reaching a new record of 57.4 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent.
    • COP28 president, the key negotiator for the deal, showed no indication of reducing production at UAE's national oil firm, ADNOC, stating that the world still needs low-carbon oil and gas and low-cost oil and gas.
  • Climate Targets and NDCs:
    • The 2015 Paris Agreement mandates countries to set climate targets every five years, with the next due in 2025.
    • Governments are preparing their next round of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) this year, with the UN hosting workshops and capacity-building sessions.
    • In 2025, the UN Secretary-General will hold a special event for countries to submit new commitments.
    • Negotiators have agreed to collaborate on a "Road map to Mission 1.5" to enhance international cooperation and secure more ambitious NDCs and finance for action.
  • Climate Finance and Loss and Damage Fund:
    • Activists will monitor the mobilisation of funds for developing countries to transition to cleaner energy, including the Loss and Damage Fund, which was institutionalised at COP28 with the World Bank as the interim coordinator.
    • The Board of the Fund must ensure its policies are fit for purpose and responsive to needs.
      • Institutional arrangements must be in place by COP29 for the fund to deliver finance to projects.
  • Climate Litigation as a Tool:
    • According to UNEP’s Global Climate Litigation Report: 2023 Status Review- "Litigation is becoming a powerful tool for driving climate action and justice". 
      • The report highlighted that the number of climate change court cases globally has more than doubled since 2017.
    • In its year-end assessment, Columbia University's Sabin Center for Climate Change Law said at least 183 new cases were filed globally in 2023.
      • This translates to a minimum of three cases challenging climate inaction being filed every week globally in 2023.
    • The review came in a year when 16 young citizens in the US state of Montana sued the government for its policies allegedly violating their constitutional right to “a clean and healthful environment” and emerged victorious in a landmark verdict.


While the climate crisis is here, there is still scope for change to, if not reverse, at least arrest its impacts. This year serves as a reminder of the urgent need for global action. Alternatives to the conflict include international collaboration, legislative initiatives, and policy reforms.

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