2023 is likely to be the hottest year in human history, and global temperatures during the Northern Hemisphere summer were the warmest on record, the EU climate monitor said on Wednesday.
Heat waves, droughts and wildfires struck Asia, Africa, Europe and North America over the last three months, with dramatic impact on economies, ecosystems and human health.
The average global temperature in June, July and August was 16.77 degrees Celsius (62.19 degrees Fahrenheit), surpassing the previous 2019 record of 16.48C by a wide margin, the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) said in a report.
“The three months that we’ve just had are the warmest in approximately 120,000 years, so effectively human history,” C3S deputy director Samantha Burgess told AFP.
Last month was the hottest August on record and warmer than all other months except July 2023.
“Climate breakdown has begun,” said UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, echoing famous testimony before the US Congress 35 years ago, in which government scientist James Hansen declared that global warming had begun.
“Our climate is imploding faster than we can cope,” Guterres added. Also on Wednesday, the World Meteorological Organisation warned that more frequent and intense heatwaves are generating a “witch’s brew” of air pollution that shortens human lifespans and damages other life forms.
“Heat waves worsen air quality, with knock-on effects on human health, ecosystems, agriculture and indeed our daily lives,” WMO chief Petteri Taalas said in a statement.
Record-high global sea surface temperatures played a major role in stoking heat throughout the summer, with marine heat waves hitting the North Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea.
“Looking at the additional heat we have in the surface ocean, the probability is that 2023 will end up being the warmest year on record,” Burgess said.
If the Northern Hemisphere has a “normal” winter, “we can almost virtually say that 2023 will be the warmest year that humanity has experienced,” she added. Oceans have absorbed 90 per cent of the excess heat produced by human activity since the dawn of the industrial age, according to scientists.
This excess heat continues to accumulate as greenhouse gases — mainly from burning oil, gas and coal — build up in the Earth’s atmosphere.
Excluding the polar regions, global average sea surface temperatures exceeded the previous March 2016 record every day this summer from July 31 to August 31.
Warmer oceans are also less capable of absorbing carbon dioxide (CO2), exacerbating the vicious cycle of global warming as well as disrupting fragile ecosystems.—AFP