Most of us have grown up in the shadow of fear regarding climate change and global warming. These themes became so prevalent over the last 30 years that it became difficult to know which threats and warnings to take seriously and which were mere hyperbole. But in 2023, something has shifted. We can recognize the shift in our personal daily experiences. The weather is more extreme. The winter is harsher. The summer is hotter. The storms are weirder. This is different.

climate change tipping point

Weather experts and researchers say the severity and duration of the extreme weather that afflicted the globe over the last month exceeded any definition of normal and would have been impossible without the fingerprints of climate change. But even the tone in which leaders and commentators talk about this sense of change regarding climate change feels different. 

During the last few months, the sound of alarm from a growing body of international organizations has issued forth. In July, the Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, said, “Climate change is out of control.” Later he added, “The era of global boiling has arrived.” These are not typical statements from international bodies who seek global stability rather than global panic and alarm. But what else was he supposed to say as the globe repeatedly broke heat records during that same month?

The United Nations Secretary General says, “Climate change is out of control.”

Timothy Lenton, the chair in climate change and earth system science at the University of Exeter, said the extreme weather events making the news this summer might represent an early warning sign he called “flickering” – a brief visit to the other side of a tipping point. Lenton noted, “A complex system can sometimes start to sample a different regime or state before it takes a more permanent shift into that state.”

Temperatures in the waters of the Mediterranean and North Atlantic Seas broke new records during July. Some places in the North Atlantic have seen water temperatures soar beyond even the most extreme predictions. This occurred weeks before the usual peak temperature times for these bodies of water. Scientists cannot provide a full explanation for why this is happening. The obvious answer is climate change, but scientific studies tend to move slowly, and the waters are heating faster, and the heat records toppling quicker than the science can move.

Some scientists warn that what we are experiencing can no longer be predicted because we have shifted into a new context of climate change. They warn that phrases like “the new normal” are inaccurate. Michael E. Mann, a climate scientist and distinguished professor at the University of Pennsylvania, prefers to describe the weather we are seeing as “the new abnormal.”

In many instances, the extreme weather patterns and systems experienced worldwide this year surpass anything previously experienced.

Southern Europe is experiencing one of its most extreme heat waves on record. At one point in July, more than 170 million Americans were living under heat advisories. China opened bomb shelters for its citizens to escape the heat and retreat underground for relief. In southern Europe and Canada, the heat contributed to massive wildfires. Meanwhile, deadly floods hit India, China, Japan, and parts of East Asia. Power grids went down in Iraq, where the temperatures climbed above 120 degrees Fahrenheit. In Iran, water shortages converged with deadly heat waves as the water reservoirs ran dry.

climate change tipping point

All of this is only the beginning, thanks to the weather pattern known as El Nino. Experts say these new extreme weather patterns will mark the next five years of the planet – at least.

We are witnessing a change in the arena of climate change, and those changes will flow into effects in the economic and geopolitical arenas.

climate change tipping point

Beginning this month, we will start tracking the highlights of these changes around the globe here at the End of History. Watch for a new page to post this week, where we will record links and stories monthly to track the subtle but definite shift occurring around the globe this year.

We focused on the climate change events in our July 2023 Global Review podcast episode, which Patreon supporters can listen to here. 

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JB Shreve is the author of "How the World Ends: Understanding the Growing Chaos." He has been the host of the End of History podcast since 2012. He has degrees in International Relations and Middle East Studies. His other books include the Intelligence Brief Series. Regular posts and updates from JB Shreve are available at