Over the past year, world hit key global warming benchmark

Over the past year, the Earth was more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than in pre-industrial times, a temperature that scientists say the planet should try to avoid in the long term.

Scientists with the European Union on Thursday announced their finding that temperatures over the past 12 months were 1.52 degrees Celsius (2.74 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than the average preindustrial temperatures between the years 1850 and 1900.

Climate experts have said the world should try to strive to keep the Earth’s average global surface temperature warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius in order to prevent extreme and irreversible impacts of climate change.

The fact that the past 12 months were 1.5 degrees warmer than pre-industrial levels does not mean the world has already warmed more than 1.5 degrees on a long-term basis or that it has already failed to limit planetary warming.

“This data doesn’t mean the primary goal of the Paris climate agreement has been breached, as nations committed to limiting global average temperatures over the long-term—typically considered 20 to 30 years,” said Kristina Dahl, principal climate scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, in a written statement.

Nevertheless, Dahl described the information as an “ominous signal of the gravity of the climate crisis” and said that it is “the latest in a series of powerful warnings of how profoundly humanity’s widespread fossil fuel use has altered the planet we share.”

Climate change has been linked to more intense and frequent storms and exacerbated heat waves, droughts and coastal flooding.

Overall, the world’s average surface temperature has warmed by more than 1.1 degrees, according to a United Nations report last year, which warned of a “rapidly closing window” to limit planetary warming and secure a livable future.

This past year’s hot conditions were exacerbated by El Niño — a weather phenomenon that pushes warm water east toward the West Coast of the U.S.

While the European Union data looks at February 2023 through January 2024, both the EU and the U.S. have previously determined that the year 2023 was the hottest ever recorded.

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