Climate Change: July 2023 is the Hottest Month ever recorded

Photo of Hot Sun Thermometer Heatwave Concept: from SCITECHDAILY.COM

By Kofi Adu Domfeh

July has been the hottest month ever recorded, and may have been the hottest month in 120,000 years. This is according to an analysis published by Dr Karsten Haustein, a climate scientist at Leipzig University, Germany.

The analysis says this is an average temperature about 1.5°C hotter than the planet was before it was warmed by burning coal, oil and gas, and other human activities.

Temperatures will continue to increase and extreme weather will worsen until the world drastically cuts fossil fuel use and reaches net-zero emissions.

July’s average global temperature is projected to be 1.3-1.7°C above the average July temperature before humans began warming the planet by burning fossil fuels – hotter than the previous record in July 2019, by 0.2°C, meaning it is now virtually certain that July will set a new global temperature record.

“Not only will it be the warmest July, but the warmest month ever in terms of absolute global mean temperature. We may have to go back thousands if not tens of thousands of years to find similarly warm conditions on our planet,” said Dr. Haustein.

According to the IPCC – the UN’s climate science panel – the 2.8°C temperature rise that would result from current policies would threaten food production, water supplies, human health, people living near the sea, national economies and the survival of much of the natural world.

Its report last year concluded that: “Climate change is a threat to human well-being and planetary health. Any further delay in concerted anticipatory global action on adaptation and mitigation will miss a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all.”

Taking Climate Action

The fact that the temperature rise this month has reached 1.5°C does not mean that governments have failed to limit warming to the 1.5°C limit set in the Paris Agreement as average warming is measured on a longer-term timescale.

This is not the first time a month has been at, or more than, 1.5°C above the pre-industrial average: it previously happened in 2016 and 2020, though this is the first time it has happened in the Northern Hemisphere summer when the planet is hotter.

But the fact that this month’s temperature increase is at the agreed maximum long-term level reflects the fact that, while the limit has not yet been broken, actions to cut emissions are still inadequate and the world is on course to fail in upholding the agreement.

Other climate scientists had warned that July was likely to be the hottest month on record, but Dr Haustein’s analysis is the first to confirm it and estimate the month’s average temperature.

“Such dramatic climatic changes also trigger unprecedented marine and continental heat waves, increasing the risk for record shattering temperature extremes across the globe,” said the analyst.

The high temperatures in July brought record-breaking extremes across the world. Death Valley, in the US, endured the hottest night ever recorded globally and Algeria had the hottest night on record in Africa; China saw its highest recorded temperature; Phoenix, Arizona, set a record with 21 consecutive days and counting above 43.3°C; Rome smashed its heat record, set only last year; and ocean temperatures worldwide continued to break records.

Local all-time temperature records were broken in at least 15 countries. Alongside the extreme heat, July brought record rain and fatal flooding, including in South Korea, Japan, China, India, Pakistan and the US, while Antarctic ice continued to be at a record low for this time of year.

Ahead of COP28

The record heat comes with global average temperatures having risen 1.2oC since 1850. According to the UN, current government policies will see average temperatures rise 2.8oC above pre-industrial levels, underlining the need for tougher targets and plans from major polluters at the UN’s COP28 climate summit in Dubai, UAE later this year.

To keep levels to the 1.5°C warming limit, the IPCC says global greenhouse gas emissions need to peak before 2025 at the latest and be reduced 43% by 2030.

Limiting global warming to safe levels and accelerating the transition to cleaner, zero carbon fuels is on the agenda for G20 climate and energy talks in India this week, but current proposals from major emitters are well off pace, say analysts at Climate Action Tracker.

Under a new set of plans for COP28 in Abu Dhabi, the summit’s President, Sultan Al-Jaber – CEO of oil giant Adnoc – admitted the phase-down of all fossil fuels is “inevitable” and called for “an energy system free of unabated fossil fuels” by 2050 together with a target to triple renewable energy by 2030.

Ahead of COP28, the world’s top polluters – led by China, the US, India, the EU, Russia and Japan – have multiple opportunities to adopt tougher targets, with the African Climate Summit, G20 and UN Climate Action summits in September being labeled as important milestones on the road to Dubai.


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