The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) has issued a dire warning as 2023 draws to a close: the planet is expected to see its warmest year ever.
A concerning trend of intensifying climate change is highlighted by the WMO’s provisional State of the Global Climate report, which shows that global temperatures have risen to about 1.4 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
It is impossible to overestimate the importance of this temperature rise. It marks a “deafening cacophony” of broken climate records as it significantly exceeds the previous record set in 2016.
The ongoing talks at the United Nations annual climate summit, COP28, which kicked off in Dubai on Thursday, are under additional pressure due to this surge in global warming. To lessen the severe effects of climate change, world leaders are debating how to phase out fossil fuels.
WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas emphasized the gravity of the situation by pointing out that unprecedented highs have been reached in greenhouse gas concentrations, global temperatures, sea level rise, and the loss of Antarctic sea ice.
The world has not, however, surpassed the 1.5C global warming threshold—which scientists view as the upper bound that can be reached to prevent catastrophic climate impacts—according to the results of the 2015 Paris Agreement. Such high temperatures would need to be maintained for a longer amount of time to surpass this threshold.
However, the consequences of a single year at 1.4C have been severe and provide a bleak glimpse of what may develop into a permanent state if prompt action is not taken. The Antarctic sea ice has shrunk by an area greater than some countries, reaching its lowest winter maximum extent ever observed.
In just two years, glaciers in Switzerland have seen an astounding 10% reduction in volume. An area equal to 5% of Canada’s woodlands has been destroyed by wildfires, setting a startling new record.
The emergence of the El Niño climate pattern in the Eastern Pacific and the unrelenting burning of fossil fuels is blamed for these climate upheavals. Scientists caution that things could get worse since El Niño is predicted to have more of an impact in the upcoming winter, which could result in even higher temperatures in 2024.