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"Red alert" climate warning issued after 2023 smashed all records

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) is issuing a dire warning about the accelerated pace of global warming, indicating that recent record-breaking environmental changes pose a severe threat to the planet’s climate stability. 

The Geneva-based agency’s latest “State of the Global Climate” report underscores the failure of global efforts to curtail these alarming trends and raises concerns about reaching the critical climate threshold outlined in the Paris agreement.

Sounding the red alert

“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. The WMO community is sounding the red alert to the world,” said WMO’s secretary-general Celeste Saulo.

Data from the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) revealed that the period from March 2023 to February 2024 surpassed the 1.5-degree Celsius increase over pre-industrial levels, averaging 1.56 C (2.81 F) higher. Although the year 2023 remained slightly below this threshold at 1.48 C (2.66 F), a record hot start to 2024 pushed the 12-month average beyond the limit.

A distress call from the Earth

“Earth’s issuing a distress call. The latest State of the Global Climate report shows a planet on the brink. Fossil fuel pollution is sending climate chaos off the charts,” said U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

“So we cannot say definitively about 2024 is going to be the warmest year. But what I would say: There is a high probability that 2024 will again break the record of 2023, but let’s wait and see. January was the warmest January on record. So the records are still being broken,” added WMO’s chief of climate monitoring, Omar Baddour.

Alarming environmental records

The report presents numerous alarming environmental records set in 2023, including unprecedented ocean heat wave conditions affecting over 90% of the world’s oceans, historic glacier ice loss, and the lowest ever recorded levels of Antarctic sea ice.

“Topping all the bad news, what worries me the most is that the planet is now in a meltdown phase – literally and figuratively given the warming and mass loss from our polar ice sheets,” warned Jonathan Overpeck, dean of the University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability.

Tumbling climate records

“2023 was an exceptional year with climate records tumbling like dominoes. Temperatures during 2023 likely exceed those of any period in at least the last 100,000 years,” said Samantha Burgess, deputy director of the Copernicus Climate Change Service.

Managed by the European Commission, C3S compiles temperature readings from multiple sources, including weather stations, balloons, and satellites, to provide a comprehensive view of global air temperature.

“The extremes we have observed over the last few months provide a dramatic testimony of how far we are now from the climate in which our civilization developed,” said Carlo Buontempo, director of C3S, emphasizing the profound implications for the Paris Agreement and all human endeavors.

Urgent climate warning 

The climate crisis, according to Saulo, is a critical challenge that humanity must address, compounded by a growing crisis of inequality that manifests in food insecurity and migration patterns.

Despite the overwhelming evidence of climate change’s impact, the report offers a sliver of hope with the significant increase in renewable energy capacity, highlighting the critical need for accelerated action to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

Climate action is needed

The red alert warning has been released just ahead of a significant climate action meeting in Copenhagen on March 21-22. Experts and officials will discuss enhancing national commitments to combat global warming. 

The consensus among scientists and experts is clear: urgent and decisive action is necessary to prevent further catastrophic climate change and preserve the planet for future generations.

The full report from the World Meteorological Organization can be found here.


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