Global Climate Report 2023

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) released its State of the Global Climate Report 2023, confirming that 2023 was the warmest year on record. The report highlights the alarming trends in various climate indicators, including record-breaking greenhouse gas levels, surface temperatures, ocean heat and acidification, sea level rise, Antarctic sea ice cover, and glacier retreat.

Key Findings

Global Temperature: The global average near-surface temperature in 2023 was 1.45 ± 0.12 °C above the pre-industrial (1850–1900) average, making it the warmest year in the 174-year observational record. The previous warmest years were 2016 at 1.29 ± 0.12 °C and 2020 at 1.27 ± 0.13 °C above the 1850–1900 average.

Warmest Decade: The 10-year average (2014–2023) global temperature was 1.20 ± 0.12 °C above the 1850–1900 average, making it the warmest 10-year period on record.

Record-Breaking Months: Globally, every month from June to December was record warm for the respective month. September 2023 surpassed the previous global record for September by a wide margin (0.46 to 0.54 °C).

Greenhouse Gas Levels: The observed concentrations of the three main greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide – reached record levels in 2022, with real-time data from specific locations showing a continued increase in 2023.

Ocean Warmth: Global average sea-surface temperatures (SSTs) were at a record high from April onward, with records in July, August, and September broken by a particularly wide margin. Exceptional warmth was recorded in various regions, including the eastern North Atlantic, the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean, the North Pacific, and large areas of the Southern Ocean.

Impact on Human Life and Ecosystems

The WMO report highlights the devastating impact of climate change on human life and ecosystems:

Extreme Weather Events: Heatwaves, floods, droughts, wildfires, and rapidly intensifying tropical cyclones caused significant damage, disrupting everyday life for millions and resulting in billions of dollars in economic losses.

Marine Heatwaves: On an average day in 2023, nearly one-third of the global ocean was gripped by a marine heatwave, harming vital ecosystems and food systems. By the end of the year, over 90% of the ocean had experienced heatwave conditions at some point.

Glacier Retreat: The global set of reference glaciers suffered the largest loss of ice on record (since 1950), driven by extreme melt in both western North America and Europe, according to preliminary data.

Food Insecurity: The number of people who are acutely food insecure worldwide had more than doubled, from 149 million people before the COVID-19 pandemic to 333 million people in 2023 (in 78 countries monitored by the World Food Programme). Weather and climate extremes were aggravating factors, although not the root cause.

Displacement: Weather hazards continued to trigger displacement in 2023, illustrating how climate shocks undermine resilience and create new protection risks among the most vulnerable populations.

Renewable Energy as a Glimmer of Hope

Despite the grim findings, the WMO report pointed out a glimmer of hope in the form of increased renewable energy generation. In 2023, renewable capacity additions increased by almost 50% from 2022, for a total of 510 gigawatts (GW) – the highest rate observed in the past two decades. This surge in renewable energy is primarily driven by solar radiation, wind, and the water cycle, and has the potential to achieve decarbonization targets.

Important Facts for Exams

  • The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations responsible for promoting international cooperation in the field of meteorology, hydrology, and related geophysical sciences.
  • The WMO was established in 1950 and has 193 member states and territories.
  • World Meteorological Day is celebrated annually on March 23 to commemorate the establishment of the WMO and to raise awareness about the importance of meteorology and climate science.

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