NOV 26, 2023 12:46 PM PST

Dangerous Heat: World Exceeds 2ºC Warming, May go to 2.9ºC This Century

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

On Friday, November 17, 2023, Earth's global average temperature was 2°Celsius (C) above pre-industrial levels, for the first time, according to data confirmed by the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service. Pre-industrial years are considered to be from 1850 to 1900. The past eight years have been the hottest on record and 2023 is likely to be the hottest ever recorded. Some researchers have begun to argue that the pace of climate change is also accelerating, in part due to feedback loops that are amplifying, and the impacts are getting worse.

Image credit: Pixabay

Extreme weather events have been a major problem for many years now, and 2023 was no exception. Flooding, drought, wildfires, and heat extremes are expected to get worse.

Air temperature anomaly graph by Copernicus - CC4.0

The global temperature, on average, is now about 1.2ºC warmer than pre-industrial levels. “While exceeding the 2°C threshold for a number of days does not mean that we have breached the Paris Agreement targets, the more often that we exceed this threshold, the more serious the cumulative effects of these breaches will become,” said Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) Director Carlo Buontempo.

This year has been exceptional; since January 2023, global average temperatures highest in records dating to 1940, and are 1.43ºC above the pre-industrial average. 

The UN Environment Program has released its annual Emissions Gap report, which has highlighted the failure of the world to respond to global warming so far. The report is sounding the alarm that we could reach 2.5ºC to 2.9ºC of warming this century, which would be catastrophic for our world.

"The world is witnessing a disturbing acceleration in the number, speed and scale of broken climate records," noted the report.

World leaders are about to gather at COP28 to take stock of the issue, and Buontempo said that, "the time for definitive action to tackle climate change is now.”

To put it starkly, all of this heat is already killing people, and more deaths will follow. Another recent study reported in The Lancet Regional Health—Europe has estimated that excessive heat in Europe during the 2022 summer may have led to the deaths of 70,000 people. Although people were known to have died because of excessive temperatures that summer, this research has revised earlier estimates upwards.

Experts are still stressing that everything possible has to be done to reduce the release of rate at which greenhouse gases are being released into the atmosphere, immediately. The United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change  (IPCC) has recently noted that the cost of a variety of low-emission technologies, like solar cells, wind power, and lithium ion batteries, has fallen dramatically in recent years. Policies aimed at mitigation have also improved, but more work must be done to limit warming.

Sources: Copernicus Climate Change Service, IPCC, Lancet Regional Health--Europe

About the Author
Bachelor's (BA/BS/Other)
Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
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