2023 threatens to become world’s hottest year – WMO

South Korean tourists shield themselves from the strong sun with umbrellas during Spain's third heatwave of the summer, in Ronda, Spain, August 9, 2023. REUTERS/Jon Nazca/File Photo

The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) has recently announced that 2023 is on track to become the hottest year ever recorded with global warming estimated to reach approximately 1.4 degrees Celsius (2.5 Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels. This finding is a part of the WMOs State of the Global Climate report. It highlights a pattern of breaking climate records and stresses the urgency for global leaders to engage in discussions at the United Nations climate summit COP28 in Dubai. These discussions are especially critical when it comes to the objective of transitioning from fossil fuels.

The report confirms that 2023 will surpass the record holder, 2016, by a margin in terms of temperature increase. In 2016 global temperatures were 1.2 degrees Celsius higher than preindustrial averages. WMO Secretary General Petteri Taalas emphasizes that, “Greenhouse gas levels are record high. Global temperatures are record high. Sea level rise is record high. Antarctic sea ice record low.”

However it should be noted that the rise in temperature, to 1.4 degrees Celsius does not necessarily mean a breach of the long term threshold set by the 2015 Paris Agreement at 1.5 degrees Celsius. Sustained warming would be necessary for such a critical threshold to be crossed.

The evidence of the warming trend is clear. Antarctic sea ice has reached its lowest extent during winter Swiss glaciers have lost 10% of their remaining volume in the two years and Canada have experienced  unprecedented wildfires that have consumed around 5% of the country’s woodlands.

This year, climate change has been influenced by both fossil fuel combustion and the natural El Niño climate pattern in the Eastern Pacific. These combined factors have led to record-breaking conditions. What’s worrisome is that scientists are cautioning that next year may be even more severe, as El Niño’s impacts are anticipated to be at a higher peak this winter, potentially driving higher temperatures in 2024.

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