Extreme weather events in 2023 were “extraordinary,” according to a new report aimed at alerting the world to the need for action on climate change.

Global temperatures broke records last year “by a significant margin.”say United Nations climate researchers.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said in its annual report that the air and oceans in 2023 were the warmest in modern times, with records broken in both sea level rise and retreat of glaciers and Antarctic ice.

Heat waves, floods, droughts, wildfires and rapidly intensifying tropical cyclones caused “misery and chaos, upending the everyday lives of millions and inflicting billions of dollars in economic losses,” the WMO adds in its State of the Global Climate report.

But the WMO also said the rapid deployment of renewable energy offered a “glimmer of hope” that the worst effects of global warming could be avoided.

According to the report, global average surface temperatures reached 1.45°C above pre-industrial levels last year, just below the 1.5°C threshold that scientists believe will cause an acceleration climate Chaos.

The temperature was raised slightly – and temporarily – by the natural temperature El Niño weather event over the Pacific Ocean, but still beat the previous record of 1.29 °C set in 2016.

Celeste Saulo, WMO Secretary-General, said: “The WMO community is sounding the alarm to the world.

“Climate change is about much more than just temperatures.

“What we have experienced in 2023, particularly the unprecedented ocean warming, glacier retreat and sea ice loss in Antarctica, is of particular concern.”

Wildfires have spread across Argentina's central Cordoba province amid an intense heat wave
In October 2023, forest fires raged in Argentina. Image: AP

A sea level rise of two meters would be “catastrophic”

More than 90% of the The world’s oceans have been hit by a marine heat wave At some point this year there will be severe impacts on coral reefs, which are important breeding grounds for marine life.

Extreme melting of glaciers occurred, particularly in North America and Europe. The Swiss Alps have lost around 10% of their ice in just two years.

FILE - This satellite image provided by NASA shows icebergs formed by ice shelf collapse.  Dozens of Antarctica's ice shelves, floating extensions of glaciers, showed significant decline between 1997 and 2021, a study published Thursday, Oct. 12, 2023, found.  (Dr. Christopher A. Shuman, UMBC/NASA via AP, File)
An image released by NASA last year shows Antarctica’s melting ice shelves. Image: NASA/AP

And the area of ​​ice covering Antarctica’s territorial sea has shrunk by an area equivalent to the size of France and Germany, compared to the previous record set in 2022.

Melting ice and expanding oceans caused sea levels to rise.

The rate of increase has more than doubled in the last decade compared to the decade between 1993 and 2002.

A bleached section of a coral reef.  Image: Commonwealth of Australia (Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority)
A bleached section of a coral reef. Image: Commonwealth of Australia (Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority)

Professor Jonathan Bamber, director of the Bristol Glaciology Center at the University of Bristol, said: “Sea level rise is one of the most damaging and certain consequences of global warming.”

“Our own research suggests that if greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated, there is a small chance we could see an increase of up to two meters by 2100.”

“That would be truly catastrophic for civilization and could displace about a tenth of the world’s population.”

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A year with exceptional weather

Extreme weather events once again characterized the year.

Tropical Cyclone Mocha In May, one of the worst events ever witnessed in the Bay of Bengal occurred. 1.7 million people fled to safety.

Southern Europe and North Africa remained extreme heat In July, Agadir, Morocco reached 50.4°C.

And Canada’s wildfire The season was the worst on record, with nearly 15 million hectares of forest destroyed.

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Wildfire smoke covers Canadian city in August 2023

Dr. Kevin Collins, lecturer in environment and systems at the Open University, said the report was a significant milestone.

“It’s too simplistic to say it’s just more of the same,” he said.

“This report shows that many of the key metrics such as sea ice, levels and temperatures, as well as extreme weather events such as storms and droughts, were ‘off the charts’ for 2023.”

“Renewable energies are humanity’s greatest hope”

But the report adds that all is not lost.

Renewable energy deployment increased by 50%, or 510 GW, in 2023, the strongest capacity increase in two decades.

The WMO is optimistic that the clean energy target set at COP28 to triple the share of renewable energy by 2030 is within reach.

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Professor Cameron Hepburn, an environmental economist at the University of Oxford, said: “Renewable energy, combined with storage, offers humanity’s best hope of reducing our emissions to safe levels.”

“The faster we transition to using them, the more money we save the global economy while protecting ourselves from the damaging effects of volatile fossil fuel markets.”

“The WMO’s clear findings should give policymakers all the incentives they need to double their investments in renewable energy.”

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