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The world crosses the crucial 1.5 degrees C threshold over 12 months for the first time as the first month of 2024 is the warmest January ever recorded

The world crosses the crucial 1.5 degrees C threshold over 12 months for the first time as the first month of 2024 is the warmest January ever recorded

By Anders Lorenzen

Scientists have said that the world has just experienced its warmest January ever recorded and for the first time, the world has experienced a 12-month period where temperature increases averaged more than 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial. This is according to data from the European Union’s climate change monitoring satellite Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) which was released on Thursday (8th of February 2024). 

2023 was already the warmest year ever recorded, based on data since records began, dating back to 1850.

The previous warmest January was recorded three years ago, January 2020, showing that extreme weather events and temperature records are being broken on a more and more frequent basis.

During the 2015 UN climate summit, COP19, held in Paris – the world’s nations agreed to set a target to keep temperatures from rising above 1.5 degrees C. 

Scientists urged that while this crucial threshold has now been passed it does not mean we have to give up on that target. C3S deputy director Samantha Burgess explained that with deep emissions cuts, this trend could be reversed “Rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are the only way to stop global temperatures increasing.” 

Matt Patterson, an atmospheric physicist at the University of Oxford responded to the extraordinary news with this view: “It is a significant milestone to see the global mean temperature for a 12-month period exceed 1.5C above pre-industrial temperatures for the first time.” 

What’s in store for the next 12 months?

Part of what turbo-charged 2023 to be the warmest year ever was the naturally occurring El Nino event. The weather phenomenon has now started to weaken, but still, it did not impact January significantly and it has added to the unwelcome historic stat, that every month since June 2023 has been the world’s hottest on record.

Scientists can’t agree whether 2024 will be even warmer than 2023, but policy-makers and governments will be hoping that a reversal can be made to drop down below 1.5 again over the next 12-month period. But it won’t happen by itself and would require a significant increase in the ambition levels on cutting emissions on a global level. 

2024 has been nicknamed the biggest year for democracy as more general elections are taking place than in any other year ever before accounting for a big proportion of the world’s population including in India, the US, Russia and the UK, to name some of the most significant, presenting an obvious opportunity to ramp up climate policies for the parties ending up winning those elections.

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