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Climate change: WMO issues ‘red alert’ following record heat, ice-melt increases in 2023

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The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has issued a “red alert” on global warming, highlighting unprecedented rises in greenhouse gases, land and water temperatures, and the rapid melting of glaciers and sea ice.

In its “State of the Global Climate” report released on Tuesday in Geneva, Switzerland, the United Nations weather agency disclosed that global efforts to counter this trend had fallen short, noting that 2024 could be another record-hot year.

According to the WMO report, heatwaves, floods, droughts, wildfires, and increasingly severe tropical cyclones have brought “misery and mayhem,” disrupting the daily lives of millions and resulting in significant economic losses amounting to billions of dollars.

Drawing from data collected by numerous agencies, the study affirmed that 2023 stood as the warmest year on record, with the global average near-surface temperature soaring to 1.45°C above the pre-industrial baseline. This marked the culmination of the warmest ten-year span ever recorded.

The WMO secretary-general, Celeste Saulo said: “The WMO community is sounding the red alert to the world. Climate change is about much more than temperatures. What we witnessed in 2023, especially with the unprecedented ocean warmth, glacier retreat and Antarctic sea ice loss, is cause for particular concern.”

Omar Baddour, the WMO’s chief of climate monitoring, noted that following an El Niño event—a cyclical warming of the Pacific Ocean influencing global weather patterns—the subsequent year typically experiences higher temperatures.

“So we cannot say definitively about 2024 is going to be the warmest year. But what I would say: There is a high probability that 2024 will again break the record of 2023, but let’s wait and see,” he said. “January was the warmest January on record. So, the records are still being broken.”

However, the agency also recognized “a ray of hope” in the efforts to prevent Earth from overheating. It highlighted that renewable energy generation capacity, including wind, solar, and hydropower, surged by nearly 50% from 2022 to reach a total of 510 gigawatts.

The WMO said it was optimistic that the clean energy goal set at COP28 to triple renewables by 2030 is within reach.

 

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