2023 has shattered climate records: WMO

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Dubai, November 30 (IANS) The year 2023 has shattered climate records, accompanied by extreme weather which has left a trail of devastation and despair, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) said on Thursday.

The WMO provisional ‘State of the Global Climate’ report confirms that 2023 is set to be the warmest year on record.

Data until the end of October shows that the year was about 1.40 degrees Celsius (with a margin of uncertainty of plus/minus 0.12 degrees C) above the pre-industrial 1850-1900 baseline.

The difference between 2023 and 2016 and 2020 -- which were previously ranked as the warmest years -- is such that the final two months are very unlikely to affect the ranking. The past nine years, 2015 to 2023, were the warmest on record.

The warming El Niño event, which emerged during the Northern Hemisphere spring of 2023 and developed rapidly during summer, is likely to further fuel the heat in 2024 because El Niño typically has the greatest impact on global temperatures after it peaks.

“Greenhouse gas levels are record high. Global temperatures are record high. Sea level rise is record high. Antarctic sea ice is at a record low. It’s a deafening cacophony of broken records,” said WMO Secretary-General Prof Petteri Taalas.

“These are more than just statistics. 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,” he said.

“Extreme weather is destroying lives and livelihoods on a daily basis -- underlining the imperative need to ensure that everyone is protected by early warning services,” said Prof Taalas.

Carbon dioxide levels are 50 per cent higher than the pre-industrial era, trapping heat in the atmosphere. The long lifetime of CO2 means that temperatures will continue to rise for many years to come. The rate of sea level rise from 2013-2022 is more than twice the rate of the first decade of the satellite record (1993-2002) because of continued ocean warming and melting of glaciers and ice sheets.

The maximum Antarctic sea-ice extent for the year was the lowest on record, a full one million km2 (more than the size of France and Germany combined) less than the previous record low, at the end of southern hemisphere winter.

Glaciers in North America and Europe once again suffered an extreme melt season. Swiss glaciers have lost about 10 per cent of their remaining volume in the past two years, according to the WMO report.

The report shows the global reach of climate change. It provides a snapshot of socio-economic impacts, including on food security and population displacement.

“This year we have seen communities around the world pounded by fires, floods and searing temperatures. Record global heat should send shivers down the spines of world leaders,” said United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres.

In a video message accompanying WMO’s climate report, Guterres urged leaders to commit to urgent action at the UN Climate Change negotiations, COP28.

There is still hope, he said. “We have the roadmap to limit the rise in global temperature to 1.5 degrees C and avoid the worst of climate chaos. But we need leaders to fire the starting gun at COP28 on a race to keep the 1.5-degree C limit alive: By setting clear expectations for the next round of climate action plans and committing to the partnerships and finance to make them possible; By committing to triple renewables and double energy efficiency; And committing to phase out fossil fuels, with a clear time frame aligned to the 1.5-degree limit,” he said.