“Red alert” for the global climate

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The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) published its 2023 annual report in Geneva on Tuesday. This is further evidence of the ongoing global warming – 2023 was the hottest year since records began. And the past ten years have been the hottest decade worldwide since temperature records began. WMO chief Celeste Saulo spoke of a “red alert” for the global climate.

The global average temperature in 2023 was around 1.45 degrees above the level before industrialization (1850 to 1900) – and thus only just below the limit of 1.5 to 2.0 degrees that the global community set in 2015 in the Paris Climate Agreement to avert climate change with catastrophic consequences. “Never before have we been so close – even if only temporarily – to the 1.5-degree lower limit of the Paris Agreement,” said Saulo.

Temperature records were set in every month from June to December 2023. Climate records were not only broken last year, “but in some cases, they were almost shattered.” The EU’s Copernicus climate change service had put warming in 2023 at plus 1.48 degrees.

A third of the oceans are warmer than average
At the same time, there is a “high probability” that 2024 will be even hotter than 2023 and thus the hottest year since records began, said WMO expert Omar Baddour. According to the report, it is particularly worrying that almost a third of the oceans were warmer than average on every day last year. As the WMO explained, one or more heatwaves were recorded in 90 percent of the world’s oceans in 2023.
More frequent and intense warming phases of the oceans would have “profound negative consequences” for marine ecosystems and coral reefs. Ocean temperatures have reached their warmest level in 65 years. In addition, glaciers have lost more ice than in any other year since records began in 1950, especially in North America and Europe. Swiss glaciers have lost ten percent of their volume in the past two years alone.

“Unprecedented warming”
“What we have seen in 2023, in particular the unprecedented warming of the oceans, the retreat of glaciers, and the loss of Antarctic sea ice, is a particular cause for concern,” says WMO chief Saulo. The extent of Antarctic sea ice has also reached a negative record. The maximum extent was one million square kilometers smaller than the previous negative record.
According to the WMO, more frequent periods of ocean warming would have “profound negative consequences” for marine ecosystems and coral reefs.
“The WMO community is sounding the alarm worldwide,” said Saulo. The assessments of the World Meteorological Organization carry great weight: the WMO considers data sets from Copernicus and several other renowned institutes together. As a result, its report on climate change is particularly broad-based and is regarded as a global guideline.

Sea levels have never been so high since measurements began
Last year, the global average sea level was higher than ever since satellite measurements began in 1993. Over the past ten years, the sea level has risen twice as fast as in the first ten years since satellite measurements began. The causes are the melting of glaciers and sea ice and the thermal expansion of warmer water.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that global warming brought the planet to the “edge of the abyss”. “The earth is making an emergency call,” said Guterres. The continued use of fossil fuels was leading to unprecedented “climate chaos”. At the same time, climate change is accelerating rapidly, warned Guterres.

Forecast: CO2 emissions will be higher in 2050 than today
Meanwhile, a research team from Vienna reported that humanity’s efforts are currently far from sufficient to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, as agreed under international law. Instead of reaching “net zero,” greenhouse gas emissions will increase significantly by 2050 without drastic changes.

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