Earth sees 12 months of record heat

Earth sees 12 months of record heat

Record Heat

According to new data from Copernicus, the European Union’s climate monitoring service, the planet has endured 12 straight months of record-breaking heat. Every month from June 2023 to May 2024 was the world’s hottest month. Carlo Buontempo, the director of Copernicus, said the 12-month heat streak was shocking but not surprising given human-caused climate change.

He warned that this string of hottest months will be remembered as comparatively cold unless fossil fuel pollution is drastically reduced. Copernicus released its data the same day United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres made a speech in New York about climate change. Guterres condemned fossil fuel companies as the “godfathers of climate chaos” and called on all countries to ban advertising their fossil fuel products.

“We are playing Russian roulette with our planet,” Guterres said. “We need an exit ramp off the highway to climate hell.”

Temperatures have continued to surge, with global climate commitments “hanging by a thread,” Guterres warned.

Copernicus’ data showed that each month since July 2023, it has been at least 1.5 degrees warmer than pre-industrial levels, when humans started burning large amounts of fossil fuels.

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The average global temperature over the past 12 months was 1.63 degrees above these pre-industrial levels. Under the Paris Agreement in 2015, countries aimed to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius. While this aim refers to warming over decades rather than a month or year, scientists say this breach is alarming.

The news comes as the western US is experiencing its first summer heat wave, with temperatures soaring into the triple digits.

One year of unrelenting heat

Unprecedented heat has already left a trail of death and destruction across the planet this spring.

In India, temperatures have pushed toward 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit), causing heat-related deaths. Brutal temperatures in Southeast Asia have resulted in school closures and crop damage. Mexico has also faced extreme heat.

Hotter air and oceans also fuel heavier rainfall and destructive storms in various parts of the world. Ben Clarke, a researcher at Imperial College London’s Grantham Institute, explained that the recent heat offers “a window into the future with extreme heat that challenges the limits of human survivability.” Clarke emphasized that every tenth of a degree of warming exposes more people to dangerous and potentially deadly heat. Guterres also highlighted new data released by the World Meteorological Organization, which found a nearly 86% chance that at least one of the years between 2024 and 2028 will break the hottest-year record set in 2023.

The WMO also calculated a nearly 50% chance that global average temperatures over the entire five-year period would be more than 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. In his speech, Guterres laid blame for the climate crisis firmly at the doorstep of fossil fuel companies that “rake in record profits and feast off trillions in taxpayer-funded subsidies.” He called on every country to ban fossil fuel ads, similar to advertising bans for tobacco. “We are at a moment of truth,” he said, urging immediate action, including huge cuts in planet-heating pollution and an immediate end to new coal projects.

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He appealed to rich countries to commit to quitting coal by 2030, reducing oil and gas by 60% by 2035, and increasing funding to the poorest, most climate-vulnerable countries. “We cannot accept a future where the rich are protected in air-conditioned bubbles while the rest of humanity is lashed by lethal weather in unliveable lands,” Guterres stated. The urgent call to action underscores the need to address climate change before it is too late.

The planet’s future hangs in the balance, and world leaders must act now to ensure a liveable world for future generations.


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