2023 was warmest year on record, says WMO’s State of Global Climate report

New Delhi, March 19 (IANS) A new report from the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) on Tuesday showed that records were once again broken, and in some cases smashed, for greenhouse gas levels, surface temperatures, ocean heat and acidification, sea level rise, Antarctic sea ice cover and glacier retreat. It said that 2023 was the warmest year on record.

Heatwaves, floods, droughts, wildfires and rapidly intensifying tropical cyclones caused misery and mayhem, upending daily lives of millions and inflicting many billions of dollars in economic losses, according to the ‘WMO State of the Global Climate 2023’ report.

The WMO report confirmed that 2023 was the warmest year on record, with the global average near-surface temperature at 1.45 degrees Celsius (with a margin of uncertainty of plus/minus 0.12 degree) above the pre-industrial baseline. It was also the warmest 10-year period on record.

“Sirens are blaring across all major indicators… Some records aren’t just chart-topping, they’re chart-busting. And changes are speeding-up,” said United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres.

“Never have we been so close — albeit on a temporary basis at the moment — to the 1.5 degrees Celsius lower limit of the Paris Agreement on climate change,” said WMO Secretary-General, Celeste Saulo.

“The WMO community is sounding the red alert to the world. Climate change is about much more than temperatures. What we witnessed in 2023, especially with the unprecedented ocean warmth, glacier retreat and Antarctic sea ice loss, is cause for particular concern,” she said.

On an average day in 2023, nearly one-third of the global ocean was gripped by a marine heatwave, harming vital ecosystems and food systems.

Towards the end of 2023, over 90 per cent of the ocean had experienced heatwave conditions at some point during the year.

The global set of reference glaciers suffered the largest loss of ice on record (since 1950), driven by extreme melt in both western North America and Europe, according to preliminary data.

Antarctic sea ice extent was by far the lowest on record, with the maximum extent at the end of winter at one million sq km below the previous record year — equivalent to the size of France and Germany combined.

“The climate crisis is the defining challenge that humanity faces and is closely intertwined with the inequality crisis — as witnessed by growing food insecurity and population displacement, and biodiversity loss,” said Celeste Saulo.

The number of people who are acutely food insecure worldwide has more than doubled, from 149 million people before the Covid-19 pandemic to 333 million people in 2023 (in 78 monitored countries by the World Food Programme).

Weather and climate extremes may not be the root cause, but they are aggravating factors, according to the report.

Weather hazards continued to trigger displacement in 2023, showing how climate shocks undermine resilience and create new protection risks among the most vulnerable populations.

There is, however, a glimmer of hope. Renewable energy generation, primarily driven by the dynamic forces of solar radiation, wind and the water cycle, has surged to the forefront of climate action for its potential to achieve decarbonisation targets.

In 2023, renewable capacity additions increased by almost 50 per cent from 2022, for a total of 510 gigawatts — the highest rate observed in the last two decades.



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