The word’s heating up


As the world grapples with the aftermath of a scorching 2023, the United Nations has issued a sobering warning: brace for an even hotter year ahead. The UN’s World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has raised concerns that 2024 could surpass the unprecedented temperatures witnessed in the previous year, driven by the potent influence of the El Nino climate pattern. The WMO’s revelation comes on the heels of a troubling trend of record-breaking temperatures. From June to December 2023, each month set new global temperature records, with July and August marking the hottest months ever recorded. The annual average global temperature for 2023 soared to 1.45 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, cementing its position as the warmest year on record by a significant margin.

The emergence of El Nino in 2023, transitioning from the cooling La Nina, has already begun to impact global temperatures. However, the full force of El Nino’s influence is expected to peak in 2024, potentially intensifying the heat even further. The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) estimates a one in three chance that 2024 will surpass the scorching temperatures of 2023, with a 99 per cent likelihood of ranking among the five warmest years ever recorded. One of the most striking features of El Nino is its ability to disrupt weather patterns across the globe. While it typically brings heavy rainfall to some regions, it can lead to droughts in others. This unpredictability wreaks havoc on agricultural systems, affecting food security and livelihoods. In regions like Southeast Asia and Australia, El Nino can cause severe droughts, leading to crop failures and water shortages. Conversely, in parts of South America, it can result in excessive rainfall and flooding, damaging infrastructure and displacing communities. NOAA’s report on the 2023 global surface temperature, which was 1.18 degrees Celsius above the 20th-century average, highlights the alarming warming trends, particularly in regions like the Arctic and northern North America.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has been unequivocal in his assessment, stating that humanity’s actions are “scorching the Earth”. The WMO echoes this sentiment, emphasizing that each decade since the 1980s has been warmer than the previous one, serving as a stark reminder of the urgent need for global action to avert a catastrophic future. Enhanced early warning systems can help communities prepare for the impacts of El Nino, allowing for timely evacuations in flood-prone areas and the implementation of drought-resistant agricultural practices. Investing in resilient infrastructure can help mitigate the damage caused by extreme weather events, protecting lives and livelihoods. As the world braces for the impact of another potentially record-breaking year, these warnings from the scientific community and international organizations serve as a stark reminder of the pressing need for decisive action to address climate change. The time for complacency is over; the world must come together to confront this existential threat.

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