The first month of 2024 was the hottest January on record, climate scientists from the European Union said Thursday, continuing a dire streak of record global temperatures after 2023 was confirmed to be the hottest year ever.
According to the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), average global temperatures last month were 13.14 degrees Celsius, which was 0.12 degrees higher than January 2020—previously the hottest January on record.
The agency’s Deputy Director Samantha Burgess said another alarming record was set last month, as the world “just experienced a 12-month period” of temperatures 1.5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial benchmark.
With a record-setting January, the world has now witnessed an eight-month streak of all-time temperature records being broken for a particular month on the calendar.
Compared to a 30-year reference period from 1991 to 2020, January’s spike was lower than the last six months of 2023, but still higher than anything preceding that.
Scientists at C3S have repeatedly expressed alarm at not just record-setting temperatures, but also how large the anomaly is compared to the average numbers in the previous three decades.
1.5 degrees Celsius. That is the preferred limit for the increase in global temperatures compared to pre-industrial levels, as per the 2015 Paris Agreement signed by world leaders.
Twelve months of global temperatures being 1.5 degrees above the pre-industrial level doesn’t necessarily mean the Paris climate treaty has failed, as that target is focused on more long-term temperatures stretching across several decades. However, it is still likely to raise alarm as scientists have warned that more urgent action is needed to ensure the Paris deal’s goals are met. Under the 2015 agreement, more than 190 signatory nations agreed to work towards limiting the rise of global temperatures to between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius compared to the pre-industrial period—with 1.5-degrees being the preferred limit. In December last year, leaders at the COP28 UN climate summit in Dubai agreed to plan for “transitioning away from fossil fuels…in a just, orderly and equitable manner.” However, the plan stopped short of calling for oil and gas usage to be phased out—a key demand pushed by 100 nations including the U.S., Canada and the European Union—due to strong opposition from the Saudi Arabia-led OPEC bloc of oil-producing nations.
“Rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are the only way to stop global temperatures increasing,” Burgess said.
In another alarming development, the mean global temperature briefly crossed the 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels threshold for the first time in November last year. A long term rise in global temperatures past the threshold is likely to have disastrous and irreversible impacts on the planet, scientists have warned.