UN warns: ‘Planet is on brink of abyss’

The period 2014-2023 was the warmest decade on record, exceeding the 1850-1900 average by 1.20°C. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, “Earth’s issuing a distress call. Fossil fuel pollution is sending climate chaos off the charts.” The planet is on the brink of the abyss, the United Nations warns.

Last year, in particular, was the hottest year ever, with an average global surface temperature of 1.45°C above the pre-industrial reference level. Greenhouse gas emissions, rising sea levels, and melting of the polar ice caps have broken all records in 2023.

The consequences are visible: extreme weather conditions, heat waves, floods, droughts, and forest fires… And all these extreme conditions were felt in lives and livelihoods on every continent in 2023.

But there’s still hope, says Guterres. “There is still time to throw a lifeline to people and the planet, but action must be taken now. Every fraction of a degree of global warming impacts the future of life on Earth.”

2024, another record-hot year?

According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius of global warming, as agreed in the Paris Climate Agreement, has probably been exceeded last year, and there is a “high probability” that 2024 will be another record-hot year.

January 2024 was already the warmest January on record, and February 2024 as a whole was 1.77°C warmer than the estimated February average for 1850-1900, the pre-industrial reference period, according to Copernicus Climate Change Service, implemented by the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts.

The long-term increase in global temperatures is due to the increase in the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which reached record highs in 2022.

Goal is still far away

At the Dubai Climate Summit, nearly 200 countries committed to tripling renewable energy capacity to at least 11,000 gigawatts by 2030. World leaders also agreed to move away from fossil fuels, a necessary step to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

However, that goal is still far away. In 2023, the main concentrations of greenhouse gases increased further after reaching a record in 2022. The amount of carbon dioxide today is 50% higher than in pre-industrial times.

Glimmer of hope

Still, according to the WMO, there is a glimmer of hope because the production capacity for renewable energy increased by almost 50% in 2023 compared to 2022 (to a total of 510 gigawatts), the highest percentage in the past two decades.

On Thursday and Friday, climate experts and government ministers gather in the Danish capital, Copenhagen, to press for greater climate action, including increased national commitments to fight global warming.


Other good news for the planet? According to a report published on Monday by the Amazon Institute, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon fell to its lowest level in six years over January and February.

Official government figures based on data collected by satellites from the National Institute for Space Research (Inpe) show that deforestation in the Amazon fell by half last year compared to 2022.

‘Imperative to combat climate change’

When former President Jair Bolsonaro was in power from 2019 to 2022, deforestation in the Amazon skyrocketed by 75%, compared to the previous decade. Current President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva pledged to fight deforestation. “Reaching zero square kilometers of deforestation by 2030 is imperative to combat climate change,” said Larissa Amorim, a researcher at Amazon.

The Amazon rainforest is considered a CO2 reservoir and is important in the international fight against climate change. Brazil owns a large part of the Amazon region, about the size of Western Europe, spanning nine states.


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