fire in spain

A fire forced evacuations in Valencia, Spain and nearby areas on November 2, 2023.

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EU Scientists 'Can Say With Near Certainty' That 2023 Will Be Hottest in 125,000 Years

Noting the global temperature records "obliterated" thoughout the year, one expert said that "the sense of urgency for ambitious climate action going into COP28 has never been higher."

European Union scientists said Wednesday that this year is "virtually certain" to be the warmest on record globally, bolstering demands for bolder action to tackle the climate emergency amid preparations for a United Nations summit later this month.

The Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) found that last month was the hottest October ever documented, with an average surface air temperature of 15.3°C—0.85°C higher than the 1991-2020 average and 0.40°C above the previous record from 2019.

October also set a new record for average sea surface temperature and "marked the sixth consecutive month that Antarctic sea ice extent remained at record low levels for the time of year," C3S revealed. "Arctic sea ice extent reached its seventh lowest value for October, at 12% below average."

C3S director Carlo Buontempo told Bloomberg Green that "the difference between the temperature of this October and the average temperature of October in the last 30 years is extraordinarily large, much larger than the anomaly of any of the other years that were record-breaking."

"We are already in uncharted territory," he warned. "We are already experiencing a climate that we have never seen in our life or in our history."

C3S deputy director Samantha Burgess noted in a statement that the "exceptional temperature anomalies" of last month follow "four months of global temperature records being obliterated."

This year featured a historically hot summer and a September that Buontempo previously described as "just mind-blowing," given that it was at the time "the most anomalous warm month of any year" in the service's data going back to 1940.

The service also found that January to October had the highest global mean temperature for that period, 0.10°C higher than the 10-month average for 2016, currently the hottest year on record.

Given that finding, Burgess explained, "we can say with near certainty that 2023 will be the warmest year on record, and is currently 1.43°C above the preindustrial average."

While C3S can only directly account for just over eight decades, when data from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is considered, "then we can say that this is the warmest year for the last 125,000 years," she toldReuters.

"September really, really surprised us," Burgess continued. "So after last month, it's hard to determine whether we're in a new climate state. But now records keep tumbling and they're surprising me less than they did a month ago."

Responding to the C3S report, Imperial College London climatologist Friederike Otto stressed that "I think the most important thing to highlight here is that this is not just another record or another big number that is statistically interesting. The fact that we're seeing this record hot year means record human suffering."

"Within this year, extreme heatwaves and droughts made much worse by these extreme temperatures have caused thousands of deaths, people losing their livelihoods, being displaced, etc. These are the records that matter," Otto added. "That is why the Paris agreement is a human rights treaty, and not keeping to the goals in it is violating human rights on a vast scale."

Human activity has already heated up the planet by about 1.1°C, relative to preindustrial levels. The Paris agreement aims to keep global temperature rise this century well below 2°C, with a target of 1.5°C—goals that will be at the center of COP28, the U.N. summit that is set to kick off in Dubai, United Arab Emirates on November 30.

Burgess declared that "the sense of urgency for ambitious climate action going into COP28 has never been higher."

Despite persistent warnings from climate scientists and other experts that the world needs to rapidly phase out planet-heating fossil fuels, governments and banks continue to dump money into the polluting industry, as a report from the U.N. and global partners reiterated Wednesday.

"Governments are literally doubling down on fossil fuel production; that spells double trouble for people and planet," said United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres. "We cannot address climate catastrophe without tackling its root cause: fossil fuel dependence."

"COP28 must send a clear signal that the fossil fuel age is out of gas—that its end is inevitable," he emphasized. "We need credible commitments to ramp up renewables, phase out fossil fuels, and boost energy efficiency, while ensuring a just, equitable transition."

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