The year 2023 was the hottest on record globally, according to data released today by U.S. government agencies NASA and NOAA. These statistics reflect a long-term trend: The last 10 years have been the 10 hottest on record. El Niño conditions helped to boost temperatures in 2023 and are expected to continue into 2024.
This data was released days after NOAA published its annual report tallying the toll of extreme weather and climate disasters in the United States for 2023. According to the agency, at least 492 lives were lost in 28 separate disasters that each reported damages of $1 billion or more with a total economic cost of at least $92.9 billion last year. Per the data, 2023 ranks first in number of billion-dollar climate and extreme weather-related disasters.
The release of this data also comes on the heels of the conclusion of the annual U.N. climate change talks, COP28, where for the first time in 30 years countries agreed to transition away from fossil fuels towards clean energy.
Below is a statement by Dr. Kristina Dahl, a principal climate scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). Dr. Dahl was also named in the 2023 TIME100 Next list, which highlights the emerging leaders shaping the future of science, activism, politics, business and more.
“The latest data confirms heartbreaking and unprecedented scientific truths: The last decade has been the hottest in human history while heat-trapping emissions are continuing to rise. People in the United States and around the world are experiencing an unrelenting onslaught of climate impacts in the form of record-breaking heatwaves, droughts, storms, wildfires, and sea level rise, triggering loss of lives, homes and livelihoods.
“During this consequential decade, nations across the globe must swiftly reduce their heat-trapping emissions and enact widespread climate adaptation policies to limit the devastating climate harms and the toll they take on humans and ecosystems. Continuing to make only incremental policy changes will further jeopardize the safety of people around the world, especially those on the frontlines of the climate crisis.
“As the largest historical emitter of global carbon emissions and the wealthiest nation, the United States has a moral imperative to lead on aggressive climate action. The science is clear: Transformative and comprehensive climate action, including a rapid transition away from fossil fuels and investments in resilience, are essential to ensure a livable future for generations to come. Fortunately, the United States already has proven technologies to do this, including energy efficiency, renewable energy and energy storage, at its fingertips. It’s time for U.S. policymakers to place the needs of people over ill-gotten corporate profits by resisting and rejecting the potent allure of greenwashing narratives and false solutions that the fossil fuel industry has long pushed upon elected officials.”