September 2023 broke all temperature records, according to the European observatory Copernicus, while the world is getting dangerously close to the 1.5°C mark set by the Paris Agreement. Humanity is thus approaching the “breaking point” denounced by the Pope on Wednesday October 4, while political leaders are struggling to take decisions.

Last month was the hottest September on record by an “extraordinary” margin as the world flirts dangerously with breaching a key warming limit, the EU climate monitor said on Thursday.

Much of the world sweltered through unseasonably warm weather in September, in a year expected to be the hottest in human history and after the warmest-ever global temperatures during the Northern Hemisphere summer.

September’s average surface air temperature of 16.38 degrees Celsius (61.5 degrees Fahrenheit) was 0.93C above the 1991-2020 average for the month and 0.5C above the previous 2020 record, the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) said in a report.

Temperature records are normally broken by much smaller margins closer to one-tenth of a degree.

The most anomalous warm month

The report said the figure was “the most anomalous warm month” in its dataset going back to 1940 and around 1.75C hotter than the September average in the 1850-1900 pre-industrial period.

Global average temperatures from January to September were 1.4 degrees Celsius higher than 1850-1900, almost breaching the 1.5C warming goal of the 2015 Paris Agreement, C3S reported.

That threshold was the more ambitious target of the accord and is seen as essential to avoid the most catastrophic consequences of climate change.

The January-September average global temperature was 0.05C higher than the same nine-month period in 2016, the warmest year recorded so far.

The El Nino phenomenon — which warms waters in the southern Pacific and stokes hotter weather beyond — is likely to see 2023 becoming the hottest year on record in the next three months.

Scientists expect the worst effects of the current El Nino to be felt at the end of 2023 and into next year.

Europe experienced its hottest September on record at 2.51C higher than the 1991-2020 average, with many countries smashing national temperature records for the month.

The average sea surface temperature for the month excluding the polar regions also reached all-time highs for September, at 20.92C.

Making extreme weather events more intense

Scientists say warmer sea surface temperatures driven by climate change is making extreme weather events more intense, with Storm Daniel sparking devastating floods in Libya and Greece in September.

Antarctic sea ice remained at a record low level for the time of year, while monthly Arctic sea ice was 18 percent below average, C3S added.

Oceans have absorbed 90 percent of the excess heat produced by human activity since the dawn of the industrial age, according to scientists.

Warmer oceans are also less capable of absorbing carbon dioxide, exacerbating the vicious cycle of global warming as well as disrupting fragile ecosystems.

World leaders will gather in Dubai from November 30 for crunch UN climate talks known as COP28 as the consequences of global warming accelerate.

Finding a consensus on slashing the greenhouse gas emissions responsible for climate change, financing for adaptation and mitigation and boosting renewable energy will be key negotiating topics.

The United Nations on Wednesday said there were “divergent views” among parties over how to reach the Paris goals, even if they agreed that past climate action has been insufficient.

Pope Francis had earlier warned the world “is collapsing” due to global warming, urging COP28 participants to agree to binding policies on phasing out fossil fuels.

Malo Pinatel, with AFP