Flames and smoke rise from a fire among charred logs in a woodland.

As temperatures rise, extreme weather events such as wildfires are predicted to get more common. © EB Adventure Photography /Shutterstock.

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For the first time, global temperatures above 1.5°C limit for an entire year

The past year has been more than 1.5°C hotter than it was over than a century ago.

While it’s not yet the end of the road for sticking to this crucial target, time is rapidly running out to prevent Earth heading to even greater climate extremes.

Our warming planet has passed another milestone as the impacts of climate change continue to mount.

In 2015, the nations of the world agreed to limit global warming to “well below” 2°C as part of the Paris Agreement, with an aim to limit rising temperatures to less than 1.5°C. However, less than a decade later these aspirations are already dangerously close to failure.

A new report from the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) reveals that between June 2023 and 2024, average temperatures around the world were more than 1.5°C higher than they were in the late 1800s.

While this doesn’t yet mean that the countries of the world have failed in their pledge, as the Paris Agreement’s average is measured in decades rather than years, it’s a sobering reminder that urgent action is needed.

Dr Carlo Buontempo, the Director of C3S, says that June 2024 was just the latest in a series of unseasonably hot months.

“June marks the thirteenth consecutive month of record-breaking global temperatures, and the twelfth in a row above 1.5°C with respect to the pre-industrial climate,” Carlo says. “This is more than a statistical oddity and it highlights a large and continuing shift in our climate.”

“Even if this specific streak of extremes ends at some point, we are bound to see new records being broken as the climate continues to warm. This is inevitable unless we stop adding greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and the oceans.”

A group of small penguins stand on a melting chunk of ice surrounded by smaller pieces.

2024 had the hottest June on record in the ocean, with sea surface temperatures hitting 20.85°C. © Anton_Uvanov /Shutterstock.

The report in numbers

  • 16.66°C – The average global air temperature in June 2024.
  • 15 months – The amount of time sea surface temperatures have been the warmest on record in a particular month.
  • 88% – The extent of Antarctic sea ice in June 2024 compared to the average, making it the second lowest for any recorded June.

All-time highs

While June in western Europe might have been cooler than average this year, this wasn’t the case in many areas of the world. North America and the Middle East experienced above average temperatures, while western Antarctica and northern Siberia also sweltered in the heat.  

This meant that overall June 2024 broke climate records at land and sea, with the figures from the C3S’ dataset making for concerning reading. They revealed that global air temperatures were higher than in any previous June, 0.14°C higher than 2023 and 0.67°C above the average from 1991-2020.

It was even hotter across the entire previous year which was 0.76°C above the 30-year average, and 1.64°C higher than the yearly average between 1850-1900.

This is in line with previous warnings from the World Meteorological Organisation, which predicted that temporary breaches of 1.5°C would start before 2027. While different institutions disagreed over the exact time this might happen, they all agree that our planet’s temperature is continuing to rise.

A picture of Baku in Azerbaijan, with large modern building behind older structures.

The next major climate summit, COP29, is set to be held in Baku at the end of the year. © Milosz Maslanka /Shutterstock.

According to C3S, this level of warming will be permanent by 2033. Once this threshold is breached, it will lock in more extreme weather, higher temperatures and other changes to our climate that aren’t easy to undo.

But the chance of avoiding this outcome is becoming increasingly unlikely. The United Nations says that greenhouse gas emissions must decline by 43% by 2030 to keep global temperatures within 1.5°C.

So far, this just isn’t happening. While the world is thought to be approaching a peak in greenhouse gas emissions, carbon dioxide emissions rose by around 1% over the last year when they need to start falling drastically.

The eyes of the world are now on Baku in Azerbaijan, where the next climate change summit is set to be held in November. Greater ambition to reduce emissions will be crucial to ensuring that the worst excesses of climate change can be avoided.