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Blogs for Humans is written to help more students learn about, and discuss, important environmental issues and topics. By sharing my research and my thoughts, I hope to foster an environment of learning. 

I invite your comments, thoughts, and feedback which I hope will encourage more middle school and high school students to become actively involved in this important issue impacting our future. 

  • Jackson Selby

Looking Back at Climate Change: Highlights from 2023 (Part 1)

Updated: Apr 12

Now that we've completed the first quarter of 2024, it feels like the perfect time to take a step back and reflect on everything that transpired in 2023. We've had a chance to gain some perspective and anticipate what lies ahead. So, why not use this moment to look back on the environmental journey of last year?

This a more technical approach then I usually take and I won't be able to cover everything that happened (that would need a website all by itself), but I'll do my best to provide an overview of the world of climate change in 2023. 

So, without further ado...

Let's get started.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Greenhouse gas emissions have shown an interesting pattern over the last year. A lot changed all over the world, but in this section I will just cover the big four:  USA, China, India and the European Union.

In the US, emissions fell by 1.9 percent in 2023, due almost entirely to lessening reliance on burning coal for electricity. There was, however, a slight increase in emissions from oil and natural gas. This continues the general downward trend in US greenhouse gas emissions, when it comes to electricity generation that started back in the 2000s.

In contrast, China’s emissions rose fairly dramatically this year although experts predict they will fall in 2024. China’s electric vehicle production, however, skyrocketed in 2022 and kept growing in 2023 with over 3 million cars being sold in the last year alone. BYD, the biggest manufacturer of electric cars in China, overtook Tesla in sales during the last four months of 2023. This is a positive sign, as electric vehicles produce less emissions than their gas-powered counterparts.

 India’s emissions also increased over the past year. While not as drastic an increase as China's, India still produced 233 million tons of carbon dioxide more than it had in 2022. The growth rate of their emissions rose by over 8 percent last year, in comparison to China’s 4 percent growth rate. Furthermore, both India’s natural gas demand and the amount of coal burnt continued to increase. Though electricity fueled by renewable energies (see my renewable energy page for more information) is set to overtake electricity fueled by coal in 2035, their emissions only continue to grow.

In the European Union, emissions decreased by 8 percent in 2023, hitting a 60-year low. A large reason for this decrease is the expansion of clean energy across Europe. Wind and solar power as well as hydro and nuclear power now ensure that fossil fuels only generate 33 percent of the EU’s electricity as opposed to about 56 percent in India.

Global Weather

This year was one of the hottest years on record: A full 2 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than the average temperature of the last twenty years. July 2023 was the hottest July since the Industrial Revolution. Multiple months from July through December 2023 also experienced increased temperatures.

All across the world, the earth changed.

  • Wildfires burned over 998 million acres in 2023  due to an increase in severe heat waves like the ones in South America that leave the foliage dry and easy to burn.

  • The overall temperature of the ocean was also a record high.

  • There was a record amount of climate-based weather disasters across the world, costing the US in particular over 28 billion dollars in damages in the first eight months of 2023.

And that's all for Part One! I know that was a lot of information, but hopefully you have a better idea of how the world has been shaped over the last year. In part two, we'll discuss human innovations in climate science with a focus on energy and power. I hope you'll join me there!


*Ocean heat content graph over the last 60 years:

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