Climate Action

2023 the hottest year on record, and other nature and climate stories you need to read this week

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A participant takes a picture of a replica of the Planet during the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris, France.

New data shows 2023 was the hottest on record. Image: REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

Meg Jones
Writer, Forum Agenda
Joe Myers
Writer, Forum Agenda
This article is part of: Centre for Nature and Climate
  • This weekly round-up contains key nature and climate news from the past week.
  • Top nature and climate stories: 2023 was the hottest year on record; New ocean temperature record broken every day for a year; Only 7 countries are reaching international air quality standards.

1. 2023 was the hottest year on record

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has confirmed that 2023 was the hottest year on record by a clear margin.

In its latest report the State of the Global Climate 2023, the WMO has warned that climate records were broken for ocean heat, sea level rise, Antarctic sea ice loss and glacier retreat.

Global temperatures were recorded at 1.45°C above pre-industrial levels. "Never have we been so close – albeit temporarily – to the 1.5°C lower limit of the Paris Agreement on climate change,” warned Celeste Saulo, Secretary-General of the WMO. “The WMO community is sounding the Red Alert to the world.”

Chart showing annual global mean temperature anomalies (relative to 1850–1900) from 1850 to 2023.
Annual global mean temperature anomalies (relative to 1850–1900) from 1850 to 2023. Image: World Meteorological Organization

Renewable energy transition data provides some hope. The amount of renewable capacity added in 2023 was almost 50% greater than in 2022 – bringing it to the highest rate observed in the past two decades.


2. New ocean temperature record broken every day for a year

Mid-March marked a full year of global ocean surface temperatures consistently being the warmest on record, according to data from the US National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration (NOAA) and the University of Maine’s Climate Reanalyzer.

The global ocean experienced an average daily marine heatwave coverage of 32% last year, surpassing the previous record of 23% in 2016, according to the WMO’s State of the Global Climate report. More frequent and intense marine heatwaves will have profoundly negative impacts on ocean ecosystems and coral reefs.

Around 90% of the energy that has built up in the Earth’s system since 1971 is stored in the ocean. Coupled with the emergence of the natural El Niño climate pattern, human-led climate change has caused ocean heat to reach its highest level in the WMO’s 65-year observational record.

Chart showing daily recorded sea surface temperature from 1981-2024.
Daily recorded sea surface temperature from 1981-2024. Image: Climate Reanalyzer

3. News in brief: Other top nature and climate stories this week

Central bankers are using artificial intelligence to collect data for assessing climate-related financial risks – from company disclosures on carbon emissions to voluntary net-zero commitments.

A new report has found that only seven countries are meeting the World Health Organization’s international air quality standard, with air pollution levels "going backwards" in places due to increased levels of wildfires and rebounds in economic activity.

Sixty-two million tonnes of mobile phones and devices were discarded in 2022, according to a new United Nations report – with e-waste levels expected to increase by a third by 2030.

The European Union has indefinitely postponed a vote on the bloc's Nature Restoration Law as the vote does not have the support needed for passage. The bill, as written, could make Europe the world's first climate-neutral continent by 2050 but would require a range of changes from all parts of society.

Due to rising ocean temperatures and increased maritime activity, the Mediterranean parrotfish, along with around 50 new species, have migrated to the Adriatic, threatening the native fish population and the livelihoods of local fishers.

Following an ecological restoration project to reintroduce native species to the Galapagos Islands, a flock of finches – the birds famously studied by Charles Darwin in his theory of evolution – have been released on Floreana Island.

4. More on the nature and climate crisis on Agenda

As part of the 2024 Reinventing Cities competition, run by global city mayor network C40, 15 urban centres have unveiled their own zero-carbon plans. Read this article to explore how cities from Milan to Glasgow are becoming greener.

It's now possible to measure biomass directly from space. Marco Albani, CEO and co-founder of Chloris Geospatial Inc, explains how this could revolutionize our understanding of forest carbon dynamics.

Digital twin technology and AI can help reduce the emissions produced by buildings. By combining the two technologies, we could enhance building efficiency and also the comfort of occupants.

Related topics:
Climate ActionNature and Biodiversity
1. 2023 was the hottest year on record2. New ocean temperature record broken every day for a year3. News in brief: Other top nature and climate stories this week4. More on the nature and climate crisis on Agenda

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