The Earth exceeded 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5C) of warming in a 12-month period for the first time since scientists began recording global temperatures.
Last year was the hottest year on record, and scientists suspect El Niño and global warming combined to make it the hottest year in 100,000 years.
This 2.7 degree figure , covering February 2023 through January 2024, was taken in comparison to temperatures from the preindustrial period, the era that ended around 1900.
If energy production around the world does not shift away from fossil fuels toward renewable sources, this trend will worsen, climate scientists said.
Wildfires in Chile have killed at least 122 people this month. They are believed to be the deadliest in the country’s history
Global warming projections depend on the quality of the available data, and they always contain some degree of uncertainty, so there is a spotty track record of which ones came to pass and which didn’t.
Some have come true, including ExxonMobil’s decades-old projections about the role of fossil fuels in global warming.
Others have not, like Paul Ehrlich’s 1970 prediction that 100 to 200 million people per year would starve to death by 1980.
It remains to be seen which of the dire predictions for our planet’s future will come to pass.
In the Paris climate agreement, scientists identified a 2.7-degree rise as the average temperature increase that Earth should not surpass.
They warned that passing this point will spell irreversible harm to the planet and future generations of people.
Record-breaking rainfalls led to multiple major floods in New Zealand in 2023, destroying property and claiming lives
The new milestone is a major threshold, but scientists have pointed out that this one-year average does not mean that the Earth has permanently crossed the line – the global averages are measured in decades, not single years.
Nonetheless, 2023 was the hottest year on record, and last month was the hottest January on record.
‘Rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are the only way to stop global temperatures increasing,’ C3S deputy director Samantha Burgess told the South China Morning Post.
These trends may be long-term, but the effects of the heat are readily apparent.
Catastrophically low harvests of cocoa beans in West Africa, caused by historic drought, have driven prices of the commodity through the roof
‘We are touching 1.5C and we see the cost, the social costs and economic costs,’ Johan Rockstrom of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research told AFP.
In addition to the destruction of crops and property, these disasters are deadly. Over 100 people have died in the Chilean fires so far.
‘1.5 is a very big number and it hurts us really badly in terms of heat waves, droughts, floods, reinforced storms, water scarcity across the entire world,’ Rockstrom said. ‘That is what 2023 has taught us.’
And signs don’t look much better for 2024.
Storm Ciaran destroyed crops in Western Europe in October and November, leaving farmers uncertain about their futures
Scientists have given this year one-in-three odds of being hotter than last year, and a 99-percent chance of ranking among the five hottest years on record.
2023’s record heat admittedly came not just from long-term global warming trends but also some shorter-term events.
The naturally-occurring El Niño weather pattern, for instance, caused droughts that destroyed cacao crops in West Africa and drove global chocolate prices through the roof.
Even as this weather event weakened, average global sea surface temperatures were higher than any January on record.
And some of the science remains uncertain, with a recent study on sea sponges suggesting that the Earth actually already passed the 2.7-degree threshold – four years ago.