First time world exceeds 1.5C warming limit over 12-month period

EU monitors report comes as NASA launches climate satellite to survey oceans and atmosphere in never-before-seen detail.

A fireman douses flames on a wildfire at Panorama settlement near Agioi Theodori, some 70 kms west of Athens on July 18, 2023. - Europe braced for new high temperatures on July 18, 2023, under a relentless heatwave and wildfires that have scorched swathes of the Northern Hemisphere, forcing the evacuation of 1,200 children close to a Greek seaside resort. Health authorities have sounded alarms from North America to Europe and Asia, urging people to stay hydrated and shelter from the burning sun, in a stark reminder of the effects of global warming. (Photo by Valerie GACHE / AFP)
A firefighter douses flames on a wildfire at the Panorama settlement near Agioi Theodoroi, west of Athens, Greece [File: Valerie Gache/AFP]

For the first time on record, global warming has exceeded temperatures of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) over a 12-month period, European climate monitors have said, in what scientists called a “warning to humanity”.

The European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) reported the run of exceptional heat on Thursday, measuring temperatures between February 2023 to January 2024 to record the highest 12-month global temperature average on record.

Storms, drought and fires lashed the planet as climate change, as well as the El Nino weather phenomenon that warms the surface waters in the eastern Pacific Ocean, made 2023 the planet’s hottest year in global records going back to 1850.

The extremes have continued into 2024, C3S said, confirming the year-long warming of 1.52C above the 19th century benchmark.

Scientists said, however, that the world has not yet permanently breached the crucial 1.5C warming threshold target outlined in the Paris climate agreement, which is measured over decades.

In 2015, almost 200 governments signed the unprecedented Paris climate agreement to phase out fossil fuels in favour of renewable energy in the second half of the century. Last year, the United Nations said the world is not on track to meet the long-term goals of that deal, including capping global warming at 1.5C.

Some scientists have said the Paris Agreement’s goal can no longer realistically be met, but are still urging governments to act faster to cut carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to limit overshooting the target.

‘Hottest January’

The world also experienced its hottest January on record, continuing a run of exceptional heat fuelled by climate change, C3S said.

Last month surpassed the previous warmest January, which occurred in 2020, in C3S’s records going back to 1950.

“Rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are the only way to stop global temperatures increasing,” C3S Deputy Director Samantha Burgess said.

NASA’s climate satellite

On Thursday, US space agency NASA launched its newest satellite to survey the world’s oceans and atmosphere in never-before-seen detail.

SpaceX launched the Pace satellite on its $948m mission, which will spend at least three years scanning the globe daily from 676km (420 miles) up. PACE – short for Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem – is the most advanced mission ever launched to study ocean biology.

“It’s going to be an unprecedented view of our home planet,” said Project Scientist Jeremy Werdell.

Current Earth-observing satellites can see in seven or eight colours, according to Werdell. Pace will see in 200 colours that will allow scientists to identify the types of algae in the sea and types of particles in the air. Scientists expect to start getting data in a month or two.

The project is aimed at helping scientists improve hurricane and other severe weather forecasts, detail Earth’s changes as temperatures rise and better predict the spurt of harmful algae.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies