The average worldwide temperature reached 17C (63F) on Monday, just above the previous record of 16.9C in August 2016, according to data from the National Centers for Environmental Prediction. The threshold only lasted a day. On Tuesday, the average temperature hit 17.2C.
The new highs illustrate the extremity of 2023’s summer in the northern hemisphere, and bring into focus the slow pace of global progress on curbing emissions.
“It’s a death sentence for people and ecosystems,” said Friederike Otto, a senior lecturer at the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment. The El Niño weather phenomenon is set to push global temperatures higher, she said.
Read more: How Extreme Heat and Humidity Test Survival Limits: QuickTake
The heat this summer has already put millions of people around the world at risk. China is experiencing a scorching new heat wave less than two weeks after temperatures broke records in Beijing. Extreme heat in India last month has been linked to deaths in some of its poorest regions. Last week saw a dangerous heat dome cover Texas and northern Mexico, while the UK baked in its hottest June on record.
El Niño conditions have developed in the tropical Pacific for the first time in seven years and will trigger a surge in temperatures, according to the World Meteorological Organization. “The onset of El Niño will greatly increase the likelihood of breaking temperature records,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said in a Tuesday statement.
It’s likely the world will exceed 1.5C of warming “in the near term,” with efforts on climate action still insufficient, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in March in a report summarizing five years of its own research. Global greenhouse gas emissions need to be cut to 60% below 2019 levels by 2035, according to the report, and climate-related risks are rising with every increment of warming.
“Our world needs climate action on all fronts — everything, everywhere, all at once,” UN Secretary General António Guterres said in a statement at the time. Guterres has urged nations to rapidly accelerate plans to phase out the use of fossil fuels.
Read more on extreme heat around the world:
- India’s June Heat Wave Deaths Are a Harbinger of Worse to Come
- Shanghai Plant Burns 800 Tons of Coal an Hour to Keep City Cool
- Texas Set to Hit Power-Use High as 100-Degree Heat Grips State
- UK Set for Hottest June Ever as Climate Change Takes Hold
Attention will focus on the state of efforts to limit global warming as nations gather for the COP28 annual UN climate summit in Dubai later this year, with expectations already low on the potential outcomes.
Diplomats left a two-week preparatory meeting from COP28 held in Germany last month disappointed by inter-country bickering and what some described as a lack of ambition from the United Arab Emirates, this year’s host nation.
Any failure to achieve progress that significantly boosts the prospects for holding the global average temperature below 1.5 degrees of warming could see some countries, particularly vulnerable small island states, start to question the multilateral climate process.