2023 hottest year on record as Earth nears critical 1.5°C limit - GulfToday

2023 hottest year on record as Earth nears critical 1.5°C limit


The cracked Earth of the Sau reservoir is visible north of Barcelona, Spain, on March 20, 2023. AP

Earth last year shattered global annual heat records, flirted with the world’s agreed-upon warming threshold and showed more signs of a feverish planet, the European climate agency said on Tuesday.

In one of the first of several teams of science agencies to calculate how off-the-charts warm 2023 was, the European climate agency Copernicus said the year was 1.48˚C above pre-industrial times.

That’s barely below the 1.5˚C limit that the world hoped to stay within in the 2015 Paris climate accord to avoid the most severe effects of warming.

And January 2024 is on track to be so warm that for the first time a 12-month period will exceed the 1.5˚C threshold, Copernicus Deputy Director Samantha Burgess said.

Scientists have repeatedly said that Earth would need to average 1.5˚C of warming over two or three decades to be a technical breach of the threshold.

The 1.5˚C goal “has to be (kept) alive because lives are at risk and choices have to be made,” Burgess said. “And these choices don’t impact you and I but they impact our children and our grandchildren.” The record heat made life miserable and sometimes deadly in Europe, North America, China and many other places last year.

But scientists say a warming climate is also to blame for more extreme weather events, like the lengthy drought that devastated the Horn of Africa, the torrential downpours that wiped out dams and killed thousands in Libya and the Canada wildfires that fouled the air from North America to Europe.

For the first time, nations meeting for annual United Nations climate talks in December agreed that the world needs to transition away from the fossil fuels that are causing climate change, but they set no concrete requirements to do so.

Copernicus calculated that the global average temperature for 2023 was about one-sixth of a degree Celsius warmer than the old record set in 2016.

While that seems a small amount in global record-keeping, it’s an exceptionally large margin for the new record, Burgess said. Earth’s average temperature for 2023 was 14.98˚C, Copernicus calculated.

“It was record-breaking for seven months. We had the warmest June, July, August, September, October, November, December,” Burgess said. “It wasn’t just a season or a month that was exceptional. It was exceptional for over half the year.” There are several factors that made 2023 the warmest year on record, but by far the biggest factor was the ever-increasing amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that trap heat, Burgess said. Those gases come from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas.

Other factors including the natural El Nino - a temporary warming of the central Pacific that alters weather worldwide - other natural oscillations in the Arctic, southern and Indian oceans, increased solar activity and the 2022 eruption of an undersea volcano that sent water vapour into the atmosphere, Burgess said.

On the other hand, an International Monetary Fund (IMF) Working Paper warns that India’s current policies may help achieve 2030 emission targets, but there may be a rebound in greenhouse gas emissions post-2030, as highlighted by a Mongabay-India report.

The paper advocates for more policy intervention, which, however, comes with trade-offs, the Mongabay-India report notes. The report adds that India’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) target is to reduce the emissions intensity of its GDP by 45% by 2030 from the 2005 level. In estimating policy impact, the paper considers five major emitting sectors – power, agriculture, manufacturing, transportation and residential – and the policy interventions to reduce emissions in these sectors. It also analyses existing policies to promote manufacturing and use of renewable energy.

The abstract of the IMF paper states that climate change poses challenging policy trade-offs for India. The country faces the challenge of raising living standards for a population of 1.4 billion while at the same time needing to be a critical contributor to reducing global GHG emissions.

Associated Press



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