Limiting average global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels has been the gold standard for climate action since at least the 2015 Paris Agreement. A new scientific study published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Climate Change, however, suggests that the world unknowingly passed this benchmark back in 2020. This would mean that the pace of warming is a full two decades ahead of projections by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, and that we’ll cross the 2-degree threshold in the next few years.
Even more surprising than the findings, perhaps, is the fact that they were derived from the study of sea sponges. A research team led by Professor Malcolm McCulloch of the University Western Australia Oceans Institute analyzed sclerosponges, a primitive orange sponge species found clinging to cave roofs deep in the ocean. Sclerosponges grow extremely slowly — just a fraction of a millimeter a year — and can live for hundreds of years. This longevity is part of why they can be particularly valuable sources of climate data, given that our understa... Read more