• | 4:17 pm

UN sounds red alert as record heat in 2023 puts Earth on notice

The previous year saw climate records being broken across several indicators such as greenhouse gases, temperature, ocean heat, and more

UN sounds red alert as record heat in 2023 puts Earth on notice
[Source photo: Chetan Jha/Press Insider]

2023 has been confirmed as the warmest year ever recorded, surpassing the previous record by a significant margin, according to a report by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

In its annual State of the Global Climate report, the agency shared that the global average near-surface temperatures reached 1.45°C above pre-industrial levels as the year saw numerous climate records shattered. 

With rising temperatures, extreme weather events, and melting ice caps, all highlighting the urgency of climate change, the report also revealed that the three main greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide – hit record high levels in the past year.

The world’s oceans reached unprecedented heat levels, with nearly a third experiencing marine heatwaves on average throughout the year. This had a devastating impact on vital marine ecosystems and food systems while sea levels also continued their relentless rise, threatening coastal communities worldwide.

“Sirens are blaring across all major indicators… Some records aren’t just chart-topping, they’re chart-busting. And changes are speeding-up.” said United Nations secretary-general António Guterres.

Preliminary data from the report also revealed the largest loss of ice ever recorded for the global set of reference glaciers, driven by extreme melt in both western North America and Europe. The situation in Antarctica is equally alarming, with sea ice extent reaching a record low. 

Heatwaves, floods, droughts, wildfires, and intense cyclones caused widespread devastation, displacing populations and incurring billions of dollars in economic losses.

The number of people facing acute food insecurity also skyrocketed, more than doubling from 149 million pre-pandemic to 333 million in 2023 across the 78 monitored countries. While not the sole culprit, the report highlights that extreme weather events act as aggravating factors, disrupting food production and distribution systems.

Weather hazards continued to uproot people throughout the year, creating new protection challenges for the displaced population, highlighting the urgent need for solutions that address both climate change and its cascading human consequences.

Despite the grim outlook, the report also offers a ray of hope. 

Renewable energy generation saw a significant surge in 2023, with capacity additions nearly doubling over the previous year. This rapid growth demonstrates the potential for clean energy solutions to help mitigate climate change.

The WMO emphasizes the need for immediate action. The upcoming Copenhagen Climate Ministerial meeting presents a critical opportunity for world leaders to strengthen their national climate commitments and ensure adequate financing is available to translate plans into concrete action.

“Never have we been so close – albeit on a temporary basis at the moment – to the 1.5° C lower limit of the Paris Agreement on climate change.” said WMO secretary-general Celeste Saulo. 

“The WMO community is sounding the Red Alert to the world.”

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