In a historic milestone underscoring the accelerating pace of climate change, Earth has endured twelve consecutive months with temperatures surpassing the 1.5 degrees Celsius mark compared to pre-industrial levels, according to Europe’s leading climate monitor. This alarming revelation, announced on Thursday by the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), serves as a dire warning to humanity, scientists cautioned.
The relentless onslaught of storms, droughts, and wildfires ravaging the planet in recent years, exacerbated by the naturally occurring El Nino phenomenon, has propelled temperatures to unprecedented levels. With 2023 likely to be declared the hottest year in the past 100,000 years, the extremes have persisted into 2024, with the February 2023 to January 2024 period recording a staggering 1.52 degrees Celsius above the 19th-century benchmark.
While this grim milestone serves as a grave forewarning of the crucial 1.5C warming threshold outlined in the Paris climate agreement, experts emphasize that it does not signify a permanent breach of the limit, which is assessed over decades. Johan Rockstrom from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research stressed the profound societal and economic costs associated with reaching the 1.5C mark, citing heatwaves, droughts, floods, and water scarcity as poignant examples.
The global community faces an urgent wake-up call as recent months witness a relentless barrage of climate extremes, including devastating droughts in the Amazon basin, unseasonably high winter temperatures in southern Europe, deadly wildfires in South America, and record rainfall in California. Rockstrom, echoing the sentiment of many scientists, underscored that humanity is hurtling faster than anticipated towards the agreed-upon 1.5C limit, with temperatures expected to moderate following the eventual cessation of the El Nino phenomenon.
As temperatures continue to soar, the Copernicus Climate Change Service reported that January 2024 marked the hottest January on record, extending the streak of historic high monthly temperatures to eight consecutive months. Samantha Burgess, Deputy Director of C3S, highlighted the gravity of the situation, noting that not only was January the warmest on record, but the preceding 12-month period also witnessed temperatures exceeding the 1.5C threshold.
Despite mounting evidence of the escalating climate crisis, global emissions, primarily from fossil fuel combustion, have continued to rise unabated. Experts warn that unless urgent measures are taken to curb emissions, the world is on track to breach the 1.5C threshold by the early 2030s, with catastrophic implications for both ecosystems and human societies.
As the El Nino event begins to wane in the equatorial Pacific, climate patterns remain erratic, with sea surface temperatures shattering records. Johan Rockstrom underscored the unprecedented dynamics unfolding in the world’s oceans, emphasizing the crucial role they play in regulating the planet’s climate. With oceans absorbing the majority of the excess heat generated by human-induced carbon emissions, the repercussions of warmer oceans are felt globally, manifesting in increasingly erratic weather patterns and extreme events.