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Earth just had its hottest summer on record, U.N. says, warning “climate breakdown has begun”

United Nations — “Earth just had its hottest three months on record,” the United Nations weather agency said Wednesday.

“The dog days of summer are not just barking, they are biting,” warned U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in a statement coinciding with the release of the latest data from the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) by the World Meteorological Organization.

“Our planet has just endured a season of simmering — the hottest summer on record. Climate breakdown has begun,” Guterres said.

Wildfires continue to ravage Greece on the thirteenth day
A firefighter runs as a wildfire intensifies in Evros, Greece, August 31, 2023.

Ayhan Mehmet/Anadolu Agency/Getty

The WMO’s Secretary-General, Petteri Taalas, issued an urgent assessment of the data, saying: “The northern hemisphere just had a summer of extremes — with repeated heatwaves fueling devastating wildfires, harming health, disrupting daily lives and wreaking a lasting toll on the environment.”

Taalas said that in the southern hemisphere, meanwhile, the seasonal shrinkage of Antarctic Sea ice “was literally off the charts, and the global sea surface temperature was once again at a new record.”

Giant iceberg breaks away from the Brunt Ice Shelf in Antarctica


The WMO report, which includes the Copernicus data as well information from five other monitoring organizations around the world, showed it was the hottest August on record “by a large margin,” according to the U.N. agency, both on land and in the global monthly average for sea surface temperatures.

The WMO cited the U.K.’s government’s Met Office weather agency, which has warned there is “a 98% likelihood that at least one of the next five years will be the warmest on record.”

Copernicus data already puts 2023 on track to be the hottest year on record overall. Right now it’s tailing only 2016 in the temperature record books, but 2023 is far from over yet.

An El Niño weather pattern that emerged this year is likely to push average temperatures higher over the coming year, Laura Patterson, the WMO’s representative to the U.N., told CBS News. 

“So really this is just the beginning. I can expect that we’re going to continue to see these warmer than average conditions persisting throughout this year, and I would say next summer is going to be especially hot again.”

In order to slow the greater heating trend, she explained, humans need to reduce carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels.

“The long-term trajectory is that as long as we continue to emit pollution into our atmosphere, these greenhouse gases, you know, temperatures will continue to rise. And so it is the long-term plan that countries have to adopt, is to transition energy systems away from fossil fuels and towards more renewable energies.”

U.N. says August 2023 was 2nd hottest month ever as kids returning to school sweat high temps


Carlo Buontempo, director of the Copernicus Climate Change Service, noted that August 2023 “was estimated to be around 1.5°C warmer than pre-industrial levels.” 

“We can still avoid the worst of climate chaos,” said the U.N.’s Guterres, adding: “We don’t have a moment to lose.”

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