The mean global temperature briefly crossed a critical threshold of 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels likely for the first time on Friday, highlighting unprecedented global warming that scientists warn will have irreversible and disastrous impacts on the planet.
According to data from the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), the Earth’s mean temperatures for November 17th were 2.06 degrees Celsius higher than the pre-industrial average.
Samantha Burgess, deputy director at the C3S, said according to the agency’s best estimate, this is the first time the 2 degrees Celsius margin has been breached.
Friday’s numbers are based on provisional data.
Friday’s global average temperature was also 1.17 degrees Celsius above normal compared to a 30-year reference period from 1991 to 2020, Burgess added.
The 2015 Paris Agreement signed by global leaders agreed to work towards limiting the rise of global temperatures to between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels—with a 1.5-degree increase being set as the preferred limit. Scientists have since warned that failing to adhere to the goal will have catastrophic impacts on the planet, including extreme weather, a significant rise in sea levels and major droughts. Friday’s numbers don’t mean the Paris Agreement has failed, as it's only a singular and brief occurrence. But it could serve as a potent warning sign on how quickly temperatures are rising.
Earlier this month, C3S announced that 2023 is almost certainly set to become the warmest year in recorded history. The global average temperature from January to October this year is the highest on record—0.10 degrees Celsius higher than the hottest calendar year so far, 2016. After combining its data with the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s historical data, the C3S said it had determined that 2023 will be “the warmest year for the last 125,000 years.” The EU agency’s scientists were particularly concerned about how much higher global temperatures have been in 2023 compared to a 30-year reference period from 1991 to 2020.
What To Watch For
The next major global climate summit, COP28, is scheduled to begin next week in Dubai. 2023’s record numbers are likely to feature as a key point of discussion.