UN warns Earth ‘on the brink’ after warmest decade on record; 2024 could set new records


GENEVA: Global temperatures “smashed” heat records last year, as heatwaves stalked oceans and glaciers suffered record ice loss, the United Nations said Tuesday — warning 2024 was likely to be even hotter.

The annual State of the Climate report by the UN’s World Meteorological Organization confirmed preliminary data showing 2023 was by far the hottest year ever recorded.

And last year was part of “the warmest 10-year period on record”, the WMO weather and climate agency said, with even hotter temperatures expected going forward.

“There is a high probability that 2024 will again break the record of 2023”, WMO climate monitoring chief Omar Baddour told reporters.

Reacting to the report, UN chief Antonio Guterres said it showed “a planet on the brink”.

“Earth’s issuing a distress call,” he said in a video address, pointing out that “fossil fuel pollution is sending climate chaos off the charts”, and warning that “changes are speeding up”.

The WMO said that last year the average near-surface temperature was 1.45 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels — dangerously close to the critical 1.5-degree threshold that countries agreed to avoid passing in the 2015 Paris climate accords.

‘Red alert’

“Never have we been so close… to the 1.5C lower limit of the Paris Agreement,” WMO chief Celeste Saulo warned.

“I am now sounding the red alert about the state of the climate,” she told reporters, lamenting that “2023 set new records for every single climate indicator”.

The organisation found that many of the records were “smashed” and that the numbers “gave ominous new significance to the phrase ‘off the charts’.”

Saulo stressed that climate change was 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.


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