This year will be Earth’s hottest in human history, report confirms
As COP28 began, the World Meteorological Organisation confirmed what appeared to be a foregone conclusion - that 2023 is assured to end up as Earth’s hottest year in human history.
It will break a record set in 2016, underscoring that the world is closer than ever to the global warming thresholds that global leaders are seeking to avoid.
Data from January through October shows that the planet is likely to average 1.3C to 1.5C above a pre-industrial norm this year, the WMO says.
Constraining global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels is the world’s most important climate goal. Scientists say it is becoming increasingly out of reach, but that achieving it would save coral reefs, preserve polar ice, and prevent dramatic sea level rise. Such warmth would need to be sustained for years and decades at a time to face the worst consequences.
Petteri Taalas, secretary general of the United Nations agency, said this year’s warming had created real-life harms around the world and pushed the planet to new weather and climate extremes.
“Greenhouse gas levels are record high. Global temperatures are record high. Sea level rise is record high. Antarctic sea ice is record low,” he said in a statement. “It’s a deafening cacophony of broken records.”
Taalas and UN Secretary General António Guterres said the data should incite urgency in the global leaders convening in Dubai, and remind them that there was still hope that climate goals could be reached.
“We have the road map to limit the rise in global temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius and avoid the worst of climate chaos. But we need leaders to fire the starting gun at COP28 on a race to keep the 1.5-degree limit alive,” Guterres said in a video message played during the UN climate conference in Dubai.
Climate scientists have been saying for months that a surge of global warmth has all but assured a record average annual temperature in 2023.
Earth shattered monthly average temperature records in July, which marked the planet’s hottest month ever observed and perhaps the start of its hottest extended stretch in 125,000 years. July also brought humanity’s first taste of a world 1.5C hotter, on average, than it was before the widespread consumption of fossil fuels and emissions of planet-warming gases.
August was also a record hot month. Global temperature anomalies surged even further from normal in September, and then shattered another monthly record in October.
A Climate Central analysis released earlier this month found that the stretch from November 2022 to October 2023 was Earth’s hottest 12-month period on record.
The heat has had clear consequences. As the planet simmered at record peak warmth in July, deadly heatwaves, extreme floods and raging wildfires rang climate change alarm bells. Some three in four people around the world suffered at least 30 days of heat so extreme that it was estimated to be at least three times as likely today as it was before the Industrial Revolution, Climate Central found.
“These are more than just statistics,” Taalas told COP28 attendees. “We risk losing the race to save our glaciers and to rein in sea level rise. We cannot return to the climate of the 20th century, but we must act now to limit the risks of an increasingly inhospitable climate in this and the coming centuries.”
The surge in warmth is not expected to slow down any time soon.
A strong El Niño, the climate pattern that releases stores of Pacific Ocean heat into the atmosphere and affects weather patterns around the world, is still nearing its peak. Climate scientists predict that it could contribute even more global warmth in the early months of 2024.
– Washington Post