Volunteers distribute cold drinks to passers-by during a heatwave in Lahore, Pakistan, on May 31, 2024.

The climate is changing faster than ever. Warming is now increasing at a rate of 0.26°C per decade, a record, according to a new scientific study published in Earth System Science Data, on Wednesday, June 5, by an international group of 59 renowned scientists from 44 institutions. The findings are tragically illustrated daily, in many countries, from extreme heatwaves in India, Pakistan, and Mexico to the heat dome in California and deadly floods in southern Brazil.

As they did last year, the researchers updated the key climate indicators in the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, published in 2021, to inform climate negotiations. The UN body’s next assessment is not due until 2027, “creating a potential information gap between report cycles,” say the authors, to justify their approach. This is the “most up-to-date understanding” of the state of the climate, and “what we see is worrisome,” said Zeke Hausfather, a climatologist at the Berkeley Earth Institute, who was not involved in the study.

There is “no doubt” that the world is now warming faster than the rate of +0.18°C per decade observed between 1970 and 2010, he said. Warming has also accelerated between the 2010-2019 decade analyzed in the latest IPCC report and that of the study in Earth System Science Data (2014-2023).

“Although this acceleration is broadly in line with climate models, it is nonetheless a worrying sign that climate impacts will worsen more rapidly,” warned the scientist. “We are not, however, witnessing a runaway or uncontrolled response of the climate system,” added Pierre Friedlingstein, Director of Research (CNRS) at the Ecole Normale Supérieure and one of the study’s signatories. The first author, Piers Forster, a climatologist at the University of Leeds in the UK, is even more cautious, believing that there is “no clear evidence” that this acceleration will continue.

+1.19°C on average over the last decade

Whatever term is used, one reality remains: Warming due to human activity has reached a new record, averaging +1.19°C over the last decade (2014-2023) compared to the pre-industrial era – it was +1.07°C between 2010 and 2019. The temperature rise is higher on the continents (1.74°C) than on the surface of the oceans (1.19°C).

In 2023, the hottest year on record, warming reached +1.43°C. The overwhelming majority of this overheating (1.3°C, or 90%) is linked to human activity. The remaining 10% was caused by natural climate variability, particularly the El Niño phenomenon – now coming to an end – a warming of the equatorial Pacific that is pulling up the global thermometer. The study does not, however, explain in detail the very strong heat anomalies observed in the summer and autumn of 2023, prior to the El Niño peak, the subject of lively debate within the scientific community.

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