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Monday, July 15, 2024

Last 12 months shatter global temperature records

According to data, the average global temperature over the past year was 1.64 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial average.

The planet has experienced an unprecedented year of high temperatures, with the 12-month period from July 2023 to June 2024 marking the hottest on record. Scientists from the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) have reported that global temperatures were consistently 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial averages during this time. This significant and continuous rise in temperatures highlights the severe impacts of climate change and highlights the urgent need for global action to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Unprecedented Heat: A New Record

According to data analyzed by Copernicus, the average global temperature over the past year was 1.64 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial average. June 2024 alone set a new record, with a global average temperature of 16.66 degrees Celsius, surpassing previous highs. This marks the 13th consecutive month of record-breaking temperatures, with each month being the hottest for its respective period in recorded history.

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Carlo Buontempo, director of the Copernicus Climate Change Service, emphasized that these findings are not anomalies but part of a larger and continuing shift in the climate. “Even if this specific streak of extremes ends at some point, we are bound to see new records being broken as the climate continues to warm,” Buontempo stated. “This is inevitable unless we stop adding greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and the oceans.”

Role of El Niño and Fossil Fuels

The El Niño weather phenomenon, which warms surface waters in the eastern Pacific Ocean, has contributed to the recent temperature surge. However, Friederike Otto, a climate scientist at Imperial College London’s Grantham Institute, noted that El Niño’s impact is temporary. “We can’t stop El Niño, but we can stop burning oil, gas, and coal,” she said. The primary driver of this persistent warming trend remains human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.

Impact on Ecosystems and Human Health

The increasing global temperatures have already resulted in devastating consequences. In June 2024, more than 1,000 people died during the haj pilgrimage due to intense heat. Other regions, such as New Delhi and Greece, also reported numerous heat-related deaths amid unprecedented heatwaves.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned of the dire consequences of even slight increases in global temperatures. Aditi Mukherji, a director at research institute CGIAR and co-author of the latest IPCC report, likened 1.5 degrees Celsius of global warming to a medium-to-high-grade fever in humans. “Now imagine a human body with that temperature for years. Will that person function normally any more? That’s currently our Earth system,” Mukherji explained. The IPCC predicts that 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming will kill off 70-90% of tropical coral reefs, while 2 degrees Celsius will almost entirely wipe them out.

Call for Action

Despite the grim outlook, the targets set by the Paris Agreement aim to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, with efforts to cap it at 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. These targets are based on decadal averages rather than single years, meaning there is still time to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change.

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François Gemenne, an IPCC author and director of the Hugo Observatory at the University of Liège, stressed that climate change is not a binary issue. “It is not 1.5 degrees Celsius or death – every 0.1 degree matters a great deal because we’re talking about global average temperatures, which translate into massive temperature gaps locally.” He emphasized the need for enhanced adaptation strategies to cope with the warmer world.