No good news as climate threat continues to heat up

One of Europe’s leading climate experts has said the world needs to deliver a rapid reduction in greenhouse gases as new data delivered another dire warning on the current state of the planet’s weather systems.

Samantha Burgess, deputy director of the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) made her remarks as the organisation issued its latest update on global temperatures which announced that last month was the hottest January since records began.

It came with a warning that 2023 has been the first we have had a 12 month period when the world temperatures were consistently above the target figure of 1.5°C target set by the Paris Agreement, signed in 2015, to halt global warming.

“2024 starts with another record-breaking month – not only is it the warmest January on record but we have also just experienced a 12-month period of more than 1.5°C above the pre-industrial reference period,” Burgess explained. “Rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are the only way to stop global temperatures increasing.”

C3S said January 2024 was the warmest January on record globally, with an average ERA5 surface air temperature of 13.14°C, 0.70°C above the 1991-2020 average for January and 0.12°C above the temperature of the previous warmest January, in 2020.

It signals eight months in a row that is the warmest on record for the respective month of the year. The global temperature anomaly for January 2024 was lower than those of the last six months of 2023, but higher than any before July 2023.

It added the month was 1.66°C warmer than an estimate of the January average for 1850-1900, the designated pre-industrial reference period.

“The global mean temperature for the past twelve months (Feb 2023 – Jan 2024) is the highest on record, at 0.64°C above the 1991-2020 average and 1.52°C above the 1850-1900 pre-industrial average,” C3S added. “European temperatures varied in January 2024 from much below the 1991-2020 average over the Nordic countries to much above average over the south of the continent.”

Outside of Europe, temperatures were well above average over eastern Canada, north-western Africa, the Middle East and central Asia, and below average over western Canada, the central USA and most of eastern Siberia.

While the El Niño began to weaken in the equatorial Pacific, marine air temperatures in general remained at an “unusually high level”.

Looking to world’s oceans, the average global sea surface temperature (SST) for January over 60°S–60°N reached 20.97°C, a record for January, 0.26°C warmer than the previous warmest January, in 2016, and second highest value for any month in the ERA5 dataset, within 0.01°C of the record from August 2023 (20.98°C).

Concerningly since 31 January, the daily SST for 60°S–60°N has reached new absolute records, surpassing the previous highest values from 23rd and 24th of August 2023.

Tara Clee, ESG analyst, at Hargreaves Lansdown said the news was a blow to the efforts to tackle global warming.

“The UN strive to keep 1.5C alive, yet for the first time, the world has now exceeded this critical mark for a consecutive year. This pivotal moment urgently calls for an acceleration in action from policymakers,” she explained. “Climate change is expected to wipe 3.3% off the UK’s GDP by 2050 and 7.4% by 2100. On top of this, foreign trade will cause a further 1.1% fall in UK GDP as other countries experience the impacts of this crisis.

“Insufficient mitigation, adaption and resilience on climate change also carries significant financial risks. Extreme weather and natural disasters, policy disruptions, disorderly transitions and reputational fallout could leave businesses vulnerable, impacting investor returns and consumer trust.”

Clee continued: “Despite commitments to climate action, current policies are falling short. If all countries achieve their climate pledges, oil & gas demand falls by 45% by 2050. We need global demand to plummet by 75% to align with the 1.5C target.

“Limiting global warming to 1.5C is paramount to averting the catastrophic impacts of global heating. The drive towards net zero will bring about cleaner energy sources, healthier ecosystems and a more sustainable and resilient future for all.

“It’s vital that investors are aware of the risk climate change poses to their portfolio and recognise the opportunity in directing their savings to businesses on the forefront of delivering the necessary emissions reductions.”

C3S said January 2024 was the warmest January on record globally, with an average ERA5 surface air temperature of 13.14°C, 0.70°C above the 1991-2020 average for January and 0.12°C above the temperature of the previous warmest January, in 2020.

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