Scientists confirm 2023 as hottest year on record

9th January 2024


Last year was the warmest ever recorded, surpassing the previous annual high set in 2016 by a large margin, scientists have confirmed today.

The EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) data shows that the global average surface air temperature was 0.17°C higher in 2023 than seven years prior, and 1.48°C above pre-industrial levels.

This is dangerously close to the 1.5°C threshold that countries are aiming to avoid surpassing on a consistent basis under the Paris Agreement.

Last year was also the first time on records going back to 1850 that every day exceeded 1°C above pre-industrial levels, with close to 50% of days more than 1.5°C warmer, and two days in November over 2°C warmer.

The main drivers of this were greenhouse gas concentrations, as well as El Niño and other natural variations, according to the scientists.

C3S director, Carlo Buontempo, said: “The extremes we have observed over the last few months provide a dramatic testimony of how far we now are from the climate in which our civilisation developed.

“This has profound consequences for the Paris Agreement and all human endeavours. If we want to successfully manage our climate risk portfolio, we need to urgently decarbonise our economy whilst using climate data and knowledge to prepare for the future.”

The findings also show that global sea surface temperatures remained “persistently and unusually high”, and that 2023 was the second-warmest year for Europe, with 2020 remaining the hottest.

Arctic sea ice extent at its annual peak in March ranked amongst the four lowest for the time of the year in the satellite record.

Meanwhile, atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and methane continued to increase and reached record levels in 2023, reaching 419 parts per million (ppm) and 1,902 parts per billion (ppb), respectively.

“2023 was an exceptional year with climate records tumbling like dominoes,” said C3S deputy director, Samantha Burgess.

“Not only is 2023 the warmest year on record, it is also the first year with all days over 1°C warmer than the pre-industrial period. Temperatures during 2023 likely exceed those of any period in at least the last 100,000 years.”

A large number of extreme events were also recorded across the globe last year, including heatwaves, floods, droughts and wildfires. Estimated global wildfire carbon emissions increased by 30% with respect to 2022, largely driven by persistent wildfires in Canada.

IEMA CEO, Sarah Mukherjee MBE, commented: "Today's news that last year was the hottest on record is yet another reminder of how little time we have left to decarbonise our economy and avert the worst impacts of climate change.

"This transition will not be possible without a workforce capable of delivering it, which is why leaders must invest in the green skills and training needed to put us on a sustainable footing and adapt to record-breaking temperatures.

"It is simply magical thinking to suggest that we can truly tackle the climate crisis without supporting new green jobs and industries today."

Image credit: Shutterstock

Subscribe

Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.


Transform articles

SBTi clarifies that ‘no change has been made’ to its stance on offsetting

The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) has issued a statement clarifying that no changes have been made to its stance on offsetting scope 3 emissions following a backlash.

16th April 2024

Read more

While there is no silver bullet for tackling climate change and social injustice, there is one controversial solution: the abolition of the super-rich. Chris Seekings explains more

4th April 2024

Read more

One of the world’s most influential management thinkers, Andrew Winston sees many reasons for hope as pessimism looms large in sustainability. Huw Morris reports

4th April 2024

Read more

Alex Veitch from the British Chambers of Commerce and IEMA’s Ben Goodwin discuss with Chris Seekings how to unlock the potential of UK businesses

4th April 2024

Read more

Regulatory gaps between the EU and UK are beginning to appear, warns Neil Howe in this edition’s environmental legislation round-up

4th April 2024

Read more

Five of the latest books on the environment and sustainability

3rd April 2024

Read more

Ben Goodwin reflects on policy, practice and advocacy over the past year

2nd April 2024

Read more

In 2020, IEMA and the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFoA) jointly wrote and published A User Guide to Climate-Related Financial Disclosures. This has now been updated to include three key developments in the field.

2nd April 2024

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close