UN Sounds 'Red Alert' as World Breaks All Climate Records

Mar 27, 2024

Our planet “smashed” every global climate record in 2023. The United Nations’ World Meteorological Organization (WMO) issued a “red alert to the world,” as a result. WMO warned that climate change is greatly changing our planet.  

The WMO puts out a yearly State of the Climate report. For 2023, WMO found records were broken in many key climate areas. Surface and ocean water temperatures were among them. So were greenhouse gas pollution, sea level rise, and arctic ice and glacier melting.   

Each factor drew grave warnings from climate experts. But the pace of global warming and ocean warming was of most concern. Average surface temperature reached 1.45 degrees Celsius above the Earth’s temperature before the industrial age in the 1850s, the report said. Earth's oceans also hit their warmest ever in the 65 years that scientists have surveyed ocean heat data. More than 90% of the world’s ocean waters had heat waves in 2023.    

The WMO is sounding a “red alert,” WMO chief Celeste Saulo told reporters. She said what we saw in 2023, such as ocean warmth, glacier retreat and Antarctic sea ice loss, is cause for great concern. The ocean heat, she said, is probably unable to be reversed.  

Climate change is mainly caused by humans burning fossil fuels like gasoline. In 2023, it mixed with the El Niño weather pattern to produce a steep rise in heat, the WMO said.  

“If we do not stop burning fossil fuels, the climate will (keep warming)," Friederike Otto told The Guardian. He's a climate scientist at Imperial College London. He was not involved in the report. But he said continued warming would make life more risky and more costly for "billions of people on Earth.”

Reflect: Who should be making decisions about how the world handles climate change? Are there any voices you feel are underrepresented in the conversation?

Photo of bathers in heat wave in Peru from Reuters.

Based on the details provided in the article, the WMO’s “red alert” warning could best be described as _______. (Common Core RI.5.9; RI.6.9)
a. exaggerated
b. urgent
c. routine
d. standard
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