Earth’s hottest year signals urgent need for climate action

Data from the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service has overnight confirmed that 2023 was the Earth’s hottest year on record by a large margin.

The average global temperature soared to 1.48°C above the pre-industrial average, surpassing the previous record in 2016 by 0.16°C and exceeding the 1991-2020 average by 0.6°C.

Research Director at the Climate Council Dr Bradshaw said: “It’s alarming that 2023 broke heat records by such a considerable margin, with 2024 projected to be even hotter.

“The Copernicus summary reveals just how much hotter and more dangerous today’s climate is than the relatively cooler and more stable climate in which human societies developed.

“We’re seeing how much more extreme our climate becomes as we approach the 1.5°C warming threshold. This is why we must limit future warming as much as possible by getting our emissions down fast by rapidly phasing out the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas. We can’t keep stoking the fire if we want the room to cool down.”

2023 saw extreme heat waves in southern Europe, North America and China, as well as devastating wildfires in Canada and Hawaii. Scientists also recorded record-breaking sea surface temperatures and record low sea ice extent around Antarctica in 2023.

Australia was the only continent that did not see large areas register record temperatures, but there were still deadly floods, storms and bushfires across the country.

Major General Peter Dunn, member of Emergency Leaders for Climate Action and former Commissioner for the ACT’s Emergency Services Authority said: “The kind of extreme heatwaves we’re likely to experience in the future, not only intensifies any fires that start, making them hotter and more difficult to control, but it also strains the capabilities of our emergency services to their limits. On the most severe days, the sheer number of fires makes it impossible to combat them all, putting first responders at risk.

“Not everyone has the luxury of a safe, cool home during these extreme conditions. Communities must be prepared with facilities like cool refuges and accessible community halls, ensuring everyone’s safety during extreme heat and in preparation for the fire season.

“The impact of climate change on our communities is immediate and devastating. The urgency to stop relying on fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas, which only worsen this crisis, has never been greater. The time has come for Australia to decisively move away from these harmful pollutants.”

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