Australia Today

2023, the World's Hottest Year, Was 1.48C Above Average Pre-Industrial Levels

2023 was 0.17C hotter than 2016, the previous hottest year on record.
Arielle Richards
Melbourne, AU
​A firefighter works on a bushfire in Newcastle, December 14 2020. Photo by  Roni Bintang / Stringer​ via Getty Images.

2023 was the hottest year on record by an enormous margin, with the Earth 1.48C hotter than pre-industrial levels – dangerously close to the 1.5C warming limit set during the 2015 Paris Agreement.

In 2023, the average global temperature was 0.17C higher than in 2016, the previous hottest year on record. In climate terms, 0.17 is an enormous leap, and brings the planet further towards reaching the 1.5C temperature limit set in Paris in 2015.


The 1.5C target aims to limit global warming far below 2C over the pre-industrial average by the end of the century – at 1.5C warming, many of climate change’s deadliest consequences would be present, but relatively manageable to what would occur at 2C. Sea level rise, for instance, is estimated to be 10cm lower at 1.5C than it will be at 2C.

A 1.5C world will still be at risk of extreme heat, droughts, and a prominence of insect-borne diseases and stresses on food production, as well as the survival of ecosystems.

On nearly half of the days in 2023, the world’s global average temperature was 1.5C above the pre-industrial average. For the first time on record, every day in 2023 was 1C above pre-industrial levels, and at least two days during the year were 2C warmer.

July was the hottest month in 120,000 years, and September’s average temperatures were so high they were described to Guardian Australia as “gobsmackingly bananas”.

Scientists at the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (CCCS) said the earth would likely reach 1.5C for the first time in the next 12 months.

CCCS director, Carlo Buontempo, said the extremes we had been experiencing over the past three months provided a “dramatic testimony” of how far we were from the climate in which humans developed.


“This has profound consequences for the Paris agreement and all human endeavours. If we want to successfully manage our climate risk, we need to urgently decarbonise our economy whilst using climate data and knowledge to prepare for the future,” he said.

In September, scientists warned that we were “well outside safe operating space for humanity”, with six out of nine measures for the planet’s life support systems had been broken by human-caused pollution and destruction of ecosystems.

The CCCS noted extreme weather, including heatwaves in Europe and the United States, would not have been possible without human-made global warming. The CCCS noted the prevalence of marine heatwaves, record low amounts of Antarctic sea ice, and that huge wildfires in Canada drove up the world’s wildfire carbon emissions by 30%.

Andrew Dessler, a professor at Texas A&M University in the US, told Guardian Australia 2023’s record was unsurprising.

“Every year for the rest of your life will be one of the hottest [on] record. This in turn means that 2023 will end up being one of the coldest years of this century. Enjoy it while it lasts,” he said.


Another professor, Brian Hoskins, at Imperial College London, said 2023 had “given us a taste of the climate extremes that occur near the Paris targets”.

“It should shake the complacency displayed in the actions by most governments around the world,” he said.

Arielle Richards is the multimedia reporter at VICE Australia, follow her on Instagram and Twitter.