World set to experience record-high temperatures in 2023, scientists warn

Extreme heat warning sign in Death Valley, California in July 2023. (Source: Reuters/Jorge Garcia)

According to a report from The Guardian, scientists are sounding the alarm that 2023 is on track to become the hottest year on record, with temperatures rising significantly compared to previous years.

Samantha Burgess, Deputy Director of the Copernicus Climate Change Service, stated, “We can say with almost certainty that 2023 will be the hottest year ever recorded, currently 1.43 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial averages.” She emphasized that the need for ambitious climate action leading up to COP28 has never been more critical.

The findings from scientists at Copernicus revealed that last month was the hottest October ever recorded globally, with temperatures 1.7 degrees Celsius above the average for October between 1850 and 1900, which is defined as the pre-industrial period by the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S).

Human activities, including burning fossil fuels and environmental degradation, have led to the release of heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere, contributing to a global temperature increase of 1.2 degrees Celsius since the Industrial Revolution.

October 2023 witnessed the second-highest global temperature anomaly of all months, following the previous month. This record-breaking heat in October has led to 2023 being “almost certain” to become the hottest year on record.

The previous record was set in 2016, during another El Niño year. Burgess remarked, “When we combine our data with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), we can say that this is the hottest year in the last 125,000 years.” The IPCC’s long-term data sources include ice cores, tree rings, and coral deposits.

“Facts like these records of the hottest year mean records of human suffering,” said Friederike Otto, a climate scientist at Imperial College London. “This year, extreme heatwaves and exacerbated droughts caused by these extreme temperatures have resulted in thousands of deaths, people losing their livelihoods, displacement, and more. This is a significant record.”

She added, “That’s why the Paris Agreement is a human rights agreement, and failing to meet its goals means violating human rights on a massive scale.”

At the Paris summit eight years ago, world leaders pledged to try and limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of this century. However, current policies have actually pushed global temperatures to increase by approximately 2.4 degrees Celsius.

Akshay Deoras, a meteorology research scientist at the University of Reading, highlighted how the October 2023 temperatures reflect the shattering of temperature records by a substantial margin. Global warming due to rising greenhouse gas emissions and the El Niño in the tropical Pacific Ocean is taking a severe toll on the planet.

“We must not allow the catastrophic floods, wildfires, storms, and heatwaves experienced this year to become the new normal,” urged climate scientists at the University of Leeds, Piers Forster. “By rapidly reducing greenhouse gas emissions over the next decade, we can cut the rate of warming in half.” Despite countries setting increasingly ambitious targets to gradually reduce emissions, progress toward these goals has been lacking, with global CO2 emissions reaching an all-time high in 2022.

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