The Lamen

UN “virtually certain” that 2023 will be the hottest year

A bar graph for the breast cancer rates among women of different ethnicities.

2023 is gearing up to be the hottest year in the last 174 years, but experts caution that the worst is yet to come.

Photo: Unsplash

Published on Dec 4, 2023

In line with current trends, the World Meteorological Organization is “virtually certain” that 2023 will be the warmest in the 174-year observational record — although the agency is yet to make an official declaration.

Details: Earth’s warmest years on record have all occurred since 2014, with 2016 holding the record as the warmest. With record-high levels of greenhouse gases and ocean heat content, experts now fear that the global average temperature limit could soon be crossed.

  • The UN report notes that this year has been about 1.4 °C, or about 2.5 °F, above the global average preindustrial temperature from 1850 to 1990 — just one-tenth of a degree under the target limit set forth by the 2015 Paris Agreement.
  • Some experts note that most of this warming — about 1.28 °C — is caused by human-induced climate change, with phenomena like El Niño contributing to a much lesser degree.

What they’re saying: “It’s practically sure that during the coming for years we will hit this 1.5, at least on a temporary basis,” WMO secretary-general Petteri Taalas said in an interview. “And in the next decade we are more or less going to be there on a permanent basis.”

Why it matters: This year has been a frightening preview of what a warmer reality for the world might mean — with hazardous heatwaves and extensive wildfires being some of the consequences.

  • Between November 2022 and October 2023, 90 percent of the global population experienced at least 10 days of temperature “very strongly affected by climate change,” 73 percent of which experienced over a month of these temperatures, according to Princeton-based non-profit Climate Central.
  • 12 U.S. cities had at least a five-day streak of extreme heat, with the 22-day streak in Houston, Texas standing out as the longest.
  • If inaction on global warming continues, heat-related deaths could increase 3.7-fold by 2050, a report found.

The big picture: The WMO report was published to coincide with the start of the COP 28 climate summit in Dubai — meant to strike a sense of urgency among world leaders.