’23 hottest year on record: Report

It says the year was 1.4 deg above pre-industrial era; India says adaptation & mitigation are keys
Union Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav at COP28 meet in Dubai | PTI
Union Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav at COP28 meet in Dubai | PTI

DUBAI: Even as thousands of delegates and world leaders arrive in Dubai for the historic 28th Conference of Parties (28), which opened on Thursday, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) has shown the mirror to all with a damning report that confirmed 2023 will be the warmest year on record. 

The provisional State of the Global Climate report said the data until the end of October shows that the year was about 1.40 degree Celsius above the pre-industrial 1850-1900 baseline. The difference between 2023, 2016 and 2020, which were previously ranked as the warmest years, is such that the final two months are very unlikely to affect the ranking.

The warming El Niño event, which emerged during the Northern Hemisphere spring of 2023 and developed rapidly during summer, is likely to further fuel the heat in 2024 because El Niño typically has the greatest impact on global temperatures after it peaks, the report said. The report said record monthly global temperatures have been observed for the ocean – from April through to October – and, starting slightly later, the land – from July through to October.

WMO secretary-general Petteri Taalas said it is a deafening cacophony of broken records. “These are more than just statistics. We risk losing the race to save our glaciers and to rein in sea level rise. We cannot return to the climate of the 20th century, but we must act now to limit the risks of an increasingly inhospitable climate in this and the coming centuries.”

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres, in a video message accompanying WMO’s climate report, urged leaders to commit to urgent action at the COP28. “There is still hope,” he said and added that there is a roadmap to limit the rise in global temperature to 1.5 °C and avoid the worst of climate chaos. 

Reacting to the report, M Ravichandran, secretary, Union Ministry of Earth Sciences, told TNIE year by year these records are going to break as the warming continues. “The mitigation and adaptation are key to survive in this new normal scenario.”

India is one among the most affected countries. “The Indian average rainfall remains the same, but there is shrinking spatially and temporally. There are more cloudbursts and drought. This is because, the atmosphere’s capacity to hold water has increased. If earlier it was holding 1 litre, now it is holding 2 litres and all the water is dumped on a region causing cloudburst.” 

Former secretary Madhavan Nair Rajeevan also said COP28 is good platform for the countries to push for mitigation and make the rich countries cut their emissions. Dr Akshay Deoras, Research Scientist at the National Centre for Atmospheric Science & Dept. of Meteorology, University of Reading, said the trend we are witnessing in global sea surface temperatures is a very different pattern. “2015 was a big El Nino year and its impact continued till the first half of 2016 when the temperatures were at peak. In 2023, the spike in temperature was very prominent since June, which is a big difference. This year’s pattern suggests that this would be the hottest year.

One thing is very clear, the El Nino will stay till the spring season, pushing temperatures to be above normal like we have seen in the past El Nino years... But if we go by the logic, the summers of 2024 would be hotter than the average. With regard to the lowest Antarctic ice, while global warming is resulting in glacial melt because of the continuous rise in emissions, the recovery of sea ice is not happening.

For India, glacial melt is a big concern affecting snow cover as well as the strength of glaciers. I am afraid, persistent glacial melt could possibly trigger more events like Sikkim floods in 2023 and Pakistan floods in 2022 in the near future,” he said. As per an analysis by Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment, India has seen a disaster nearly every day in the first nine months of this year.

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