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2023 will officially be the hottest year on record, scientists report

Earth’s temperature was off the charts this year, and scientists just confirmed what much of planet already felt coming: 2023 will officially be the hottest year on record.

The analysis from the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service found this year’s global temperature will be more than 1.4 degrees Celsius warmer than pre-industrial levels — close to the 1.5-degree threshold in the Paris climate agreement, and beyond which scientists say humans and ecosystems will struggle to adapt.

Every month since June has been the hottest such month on record, and November piled on. The month was roughly 1.75 degrees warmer than pre-industrial levels, and two days soared beyond 2 degrees, worrying scientists about what this means for the planet in the coming years.

The report comes as delegates from more than 150 countries are in Dubai for COP28, the UN’s annual climate summit, where the discussion over whether to phase out planet-warming fossil fuels has been heated.

“The timing could not be more urgent,” Brenda Ekwurzel, director of climate science at the Union of Concerned Scientists, who is not involved with the report, told CNN.

“Wealthy and high-emitting countries, which have contributed the most to this record-breaking year,” she added, “have a greater responsibility to make a fair, fast and funded phase out of fossil fuels to help limit the increasing extreme weather and climate change impacts.”

This photograph taken on November 3, shows waves crashing on the "Rocher de La Vierge" (Virgin Rock) as Storm Ciarán hits the region, in Biarritz, southwestern France. - Gaizka Iroz/AFP/Getty Images
This photograph taken on November 3, shows waves crashing on the "Rocher de La Vierge" (Virgin Rock) as Storm Ciarán hits the region, in Biarritz, southwestern France. - Gaizka Iroz/AFP/Getty Images

Scientists have said 2023’s exceptional warmth is the result of the combined effects of El Niño and human-caused climate change. A series of deadly heat waves and remarkable record-breaking temperatures have hit several continents this year, while unprecedented ocean heat blanketed much of the globe.

Fall in the Northern Hemisphere this year was the warmest on record around the world “by a large margin,” according to Copernicus. November was also wetter than average across most of Europe, with Storm Ciarán bringing heavy rain and floods to many regions including Italy.

As temperatures crank higher into the next year, the world appears to be on track to breach 1.5 degrees of warming on a longer-term basis in the coming years. While it’s worrisome global warming is exceeding that temperature for months at a time, scientists are particularly concerned the planet will stay above 1.5 degrees for the long term.

Through 2022, Earth had warmed around 1.2 degrees — and the past few years have made it abundantly clear that the world are already feeling alarming effects of the climate crisis that many are not prepared for.

A separate report released Tuesday from the World Meteorological Organization found the decade between 2011 and 2020 was the hottest on record for the planet’s land and oceans as the rate of climate change “surged alarmingly” and “turbo charged” dramatic glacier loss and sea-level rise during this period.

“As long as greenhouse gas concentrations keep rising, we can’t expect different outcomes from those seen this year,” Copernicus Director Carlo Buontempo said. “The temperature will keep rising and so will the impacts of heatwaves and droughts.”

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