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The Last 12 Months Were Hottest the World Has Experienced in Last 125,000 Years

Global average temperatures over the past year were 1.32 degrees Celsius warmer than pre-industrial levels.

A woman reacts as a wildfire burns at Palem Raya Regency in Ogan Ilir, South Sumatera, Indonesia, on September 18, 2023. Indonesian authorities struggled to put out forest and land fires as the country entered the hottest day of this year's El Nino-induced dry season.

Average global temperatures set a new 12-month record high, according to a new analysis of climate data, coming alarmingly close to a threshold at which scientists believe the climate crisis will become irreversible for many of the world’s ecosystems.

Climate Central, an organization that describes itself as “an independent group of scientists and communicators who research and report the facts about our changing climate and how it affects people’s lives,” released a report this week examining average temperatures from around the world, finding that in no other point in at least 125,000 years has there been a warmer 12-month period.

Ninety-nine percent of humanity was exposed to above-average temperatures in the period between November 2022 and October 2023, the report found, with around 5.7 billion of the world’s 7.8 billion individuals being exposed to at least 30 days of higher-than-normal temperatures that were “made at least three times more likely by the influence of climate change,” the organization said.

“This 12-month record is exactly what we expect from a global climate fueled by carbon pollution. Records will continue to fall next year, especially as the growing El Niño begins to take hold, exposing billions to unusual heat,” said Andrew Pershing, vice president for science at Climate Central.

“This is the hottest temperature our planet has experienced in something like 125,000 years,” Pershing added in a press conference announcing the findings.

The report also suggested that temperatures would be higher next year. “Records will continue to fall next year, especially as the growing El Niño begins to take hold, exposing billions to unusual heat,” Pershing said.

Long streaks of extreme heat were felt in several locales around the globe, with Houston, Texas, experiencing the longest streak, lasting 22 days, the report noted. Around a quarter of the world experienced heatwaves that lasted at least five days, and 90 percent of the world’s population experienced at least 10 days with high temperatures that wouldn’t have been seen if not for the influence of the climate crisis, Climate Central said.

Such long streaks of heat can be incredibly harmful, resulting in thousands of deaths. According to analysis from the National Institutes of Health, each day when temperatures exceed 90 degrees Fahrenheit is associated with around 1,373 deaths in the U.S. alone.

Global temperatures were around 1.32 degrees Celsius (2.4 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than pre-industrial averages. That number comes dangerously close to the 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels that climate scientists say would be enough to create an irreversible crisis that will destroy entire ecosystems around the planet.

The Climate Central report also noted that, while some parts of the globe will be more impacted by the worsening climate crisis than others, everyone will see, and feel, the effects.

“While climate impacts are most acute in developing countries near the equator, seeing climate-fueled streaks of extreme heat in the U.S., India, Japan and Europe underscores that no one is safe from climate change,” Pershing said.

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