The Earth surpassed 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 C) of warming in a 12-month period for the first time since scientists began recording global temperatures.
Scientists called this news a “warning to humanity” on Thursday, when the measurement was announced by the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S).
Last year was the hottest ever recorded, and scientists suspect that El Niño and global warming combined to make it the hottest year in 100,000 years.
This figure of 2.7 degrees, spanning February 2023 to January 2024, was taken in comparison to temperatures in the pre-industrial period, the era that ended around 1900.
If energy production around the world does not shift away from fossil fuels toward renewable sources, this trend will worsen, climate scientists said.
Forest fires in Chile have killed at least 122 people this month. They are believed to be the deadliest in the country’s history.
Global warming projections depend on the quality of available data and always contain some degree of uncertainty, so there is a patchy track record of which ones came true and which ones didn’t.
Some have come true, including ExxonMobil. projections from decades ago on the role of fossil fuels in global warming.
Others don’t, like Paul Ehrlich’s 1970 prediction that 100 to 200 million people a year would die of hunger by 1980.
It remains to be seen which of the dire predictions for the future of our planet will come true.
In the Paris climate agreement, scientists identified a rise of 2.7 degrees as the average temperature rise that the Earth should not exceed.
They warned that passing this point will mean irreversible damage to the planet and future generations of people.
Record rainfall caused multiple major floods in New Zealand in 2023, destroying property and claiming lives
The new milestone is an important threshold, but scientists have noted that this one-year average does not mean Earth has permanently crossed the line: Global averages are measured in decades, not individual years.
However, 2023 was the hottest year on recordand last month was the hottest January ever recorded.
“The only way to stop rising global temperatures is to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said Samantha Burgess, deputy director of C3S. said the South China Morning Post.
These trends may be long-term, but the effects of heat are easily evident.
Catastrophically low cocoa bean harvests in West Africa, caused by a historic drought, have sent prices for the commodity soaring.
Last year saw a series of natural disasters, many of which can be directly linked to climate change: floods in New Zealand, droughts in Spain and forest fires in Chile. And the list goes on.
“We are touching 1.5°C and we see the cost, the social costs and the economic costs,” Johan Rockstrom of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research he told AFP.
In addition to the destruction of crops and property, these disasters are deadly. So far, more than 100 people have died in the Chilean fires.
“1.5 is a very big number and it hurts us a lot in terms of heat waves, droughts, floods, enhanced storms and water shortages around the world,” Rockstrom said. “That’s what 2023 has taught us.”
And the signs don’t look much better for 2024.
Storm Ciaran destroyed crops in Western Europe in October and November, leaving farmers unsure about their future
Scientists have given this year a one in three chance of being warmer than last year and a 99 percent chance of ranking among the five warmest years on record.
It’s true that the record heat of 2023 was due not only to long-term global warming trends, but also to some shorter-term events.
The natural El Niño weather pattern, for example, caused droughts that destroyed cocoa crops in West Africa and sent global chocolate prices soaring.
Even as this weather phenomenon weakened, global average sea surface temperatures were higher than in any January on record.
And some of the science remains uncertain, with a recent study on sea sponges suggesting that the Earth has actually already passed the 2.7 degree threshold. four years ago.