Human-induced global heating hits new records, report warns

5 Jun 2024

Image: © freeman83/

The IGCC report warns that at this rate there are only a few years until global average temperatures pass a dangerous threshold.

Global heating is increasing at the fastest rate since records began and there is only a short amount of time for humanity to avoid dangerous consequences of the climate crisis.

That’s according to a new report by the Indicators of Global Climate Change (IGCC) initiative, which reveals that human-induced warming has risen to an average of 1.19 degrees Celsius between 2014 and 2023, an increase from the initiative’s previous report of 1.14 degrees Celsius average over a decade.

The analysis also warns that the remaining carbon budget is roughly 200bn tonnes or roughly four years’ worth of current emissions. This is the estimate for how much carbon dioxide can be emitted before global average temperatures reach 1.5 degrees Celsius higher than pre-industrial levels.

This particular threshold is significant as it is widely regarded as the point when climate impacts will start to become increasingly harmful for people and the planet. In 2022, the World Meteorological Organization said there is roughly a 50pc chance that the global average temperature will hit this threshold by 2026.

Despite the rapidly approaching threshold, the report warns that human-induced warming is growing at an “unprecedented” rate.

Global heating caused by human activity reached 1.3 degrees Celsius last year, according to the report. The remaining global heating increase of 0.13 degrees Celsius was caused by natural cycles such as the El Niño event.

The combination led to 2023 being a record-breaking year in terms of global temperatures. The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found that 2023 was the hottest year “by far” in the 174 years that the organisation has been recording temperatures.

Prof Peter Thorne of Maynooth University, who contributed to the IGCC report, said the “lights on the dashboard are flashing an urgent red” and we need to start paying attention.

“This is yet another reminder that we remain drastically off course to deliver on our global climate action ambitions and that we will increasingly suffer the consequences of our collective inactions,” Thorne said.

Prof Piers Forster of the University of Leeds is coordinating the IGCC initiative and said global temperatures are heading in the wrong direction “faster than ever before”, despite global climate action efforts.

“Fossil fuel emissions are around 70pc of all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and clearly the main driver of climate change, but other sources of pollution from cement production, farming and deforestation, and cuts to the level of sulphur emissions are also contributing to warming,” Forster said.

“Rapidly reducing emissions of greenhouse gases towards net zero will limit the level of global warming we ultimately experience. At the same time, we need to build more resilient societies. The devastation wrought by wildfires, drought, flooding and heat waves the world saw in 2023 must not become the new normal.”

The IGGC report is accompanied by an open-science dashboard to provide easy access to updated information on the key climate indicators.

A warning for COP29

The warning comes while climate experts from around the world meet in the German city of Bonn to prepare the ground for the COP29 climate conference, which is scheduled to take place in November in Azerbaijan.

These climate conferences have been criticised for their results in recent years. COP25 was viewed as a failure in 2019, while 2021’s COP26 was deemed disappointing by many experts.

COP27 included a loss and damage fund to support developing nations, but was viewed as “a mixed bag” by some experts. Last year’s COP28 pushed nations – for the first time – to transition away from all fossil fuels, but critics claim the agreement is filled with loopholes and was more incremental than transformational.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic