Just over nine months ago, June 2023 was declared the hottest month recorded in Earth’s history. The nine months since have set new records of their own, with each subsequent month outdoing the highs of the previous one, culminating with February 2024 outstripping all previous months of their title as the world’s hottest month to date. Sea-ice in the Antarctica is at an all-time low as a result of the unprecedented temperatures with ocean surface temperatures rising too. The high temperatures are largely affected the El Nino weather event, however this is not solely to blame – global warming and climate change are the largest culprits in the current climate state.

How is the Earth’s temperature tracked and how can researchers be sure that this is the hottest it’s ever been? According to the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, looking at the global average annual temperatures year on year from the pre-industrial age, i.e. 1850 up until now, helps showcase the annual temperature and whether or not it has increased or decreased looking at the years preceding it. February 2024 was 1.77C degrees warmer than pre-industrial times, which breaks the previous record from 2016 by 0.12C. Taking a closer look at the last 12 months, the annual average now sits at 1.56C. This is significant not only because of the imminent danger that this poses to all life on earth and the planet’s longevity at sustaining it, but also because it supersedes the temperature threshold set as part of the Paris Agreement (sometimes also called the Paris Climate Accords) of 2015.

The Paris Agreement constitutes a “legally binding international treaty on climate change” with an “overarching goal is to hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.” It’s crucial that focus be placed on limiting the increase to 1.5C because “UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change indicates that crossing the 1.5°C threshold risks unleashing far more severe climate change impacts, including more frequent and severe droughts, heat waves and rainfall. To limit global warming to 1.5°C, greenhouse gas emissions must peak before 2025 at the latest and decline 43% by 2030. The Paris Agreement is a landmark in the multilateral climate change process because, for the first time, a binding agreement brings all nations together to combat climate change and adapt to its effects.”

The ultimate truth however is that outside of the inclement weather systems such as El Niño and La Nina, the biggest factor in the rising global temperatures is human activity such as manufacturing on an industrial scale and the burning of fossil fuels, and until this changes, Earth will continue to get warmer.