2023 will go down in the record books as the hottest year ever, the UN said on Thursday, demanding urgent action to curb global warming.
The UN’s World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) warned that 2023 had shattered a whole host of climate records, with extreme weather leaving “a trail of devastation and despair”.
“It’s a deafening cacophony of broken records,” said WMO chief Petteri Taalas.
“Greenhouse gas levels are record high. Global temperatures are record-high. Sea level rise is record high. Antarctic sea ice is record low.”
The WMO published its provisional 2023 State of the Global Climate report as world leaders gathered in Dubai for the UN COP28 climate conference.
United Nations chief Antonio Guterres said the record heat findings “should send shivers down the spines of world leaders”.
The stakes have never been higher, with scientists warning that the ability to limit warming to a manageable level is slipping through humanity’s fingers.
The 2015 Paris Climate Accords aimed to limit global warming to well below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and 1.5C if possible.
But in its report, the WMO said 2023 data to the end of October showed that this year was already around 1.4C above the pre-industrial baseline.
The WMO said the difference between the first 10 months of this year and 2016 and 2020 — which previously topped the charts as the warmest years on record — “is such that the final two months are very unlikely to affect the ranking”.
The report also showed that the past nine years were the hottest years since modern records began.
“These are more than just statistics,” Taalas said, warning that “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 WMO warned that the warming El Nino weather phenomenon, which emerged mid-year, was “likely to further fuel the heat in 2024”.
That is because the naturally occurring climate pattern, typically associated with increased heat worldwide, usually increases global temperatures in the year after it develops, it added.