We Just Saw the Warmest February on Record, and It’s Following a Trend

Last year, we experienced both the hottest summer and the hottest year on record, and 2024 isn’t showing any chill either. According to a report from the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, February 2024 was the warmest February ever recorded, as well as the ninth consecutive month to break its own heat record.

Europe saw the brunt of warming in February, with temperatures 3.3 degrees Celsius above the average between 1991-2020. 

“February joins the long stream of records of the last few months,” C3S director Carlo Buontempo said in the report. “It is not really surprising as the continuous warming of the climate system inevitably leads to new temperature extremes. The climate responds to the actual concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere so unless we manage to stabilise those, we will inevitably face new global temperature records and their consequences.”

Human-made greenhouse gas emissions largely come from the burning of fossil fuels for energy, with the top three emitters worldwide being China, the US and the EU. Per capita, the US and Russia have the highest emissions.

Data for February from the C3S notes that temperatures were also above average in central and northwest North America, the majority of South America, Northern Siberia, Africa, and in Western Australia. Marine air temperatures remained “unusually high” as  El Niño weakened in the Pacific.

“There’s now so much evidence pointing to the fact that our climate is warming,” Friederike Otto, Imperial College London’s senior lecturer in climate science, told The Guardian in response to the C3S report.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions

A March 2023 report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change echoes Otto’s observations, noting that half of the world’s population is “highly vulnerable to climate change,” but solutions are known.

In a tweet pointing to the IPCC report, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said that the “climate time-bomb is ticking.” He added that the report shows “we have the knowledge & resources to tackle the climate crisis.”

The UN report enumerates ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the climate emergency caused by humans, such as changes to the food and transportation systems, and notes the importance of international cooperation in climate action. “If we act now, we can still secure a liveable sustainable future for all,” IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee said in the report.

A landmark agreement to transition away from using fossil fuels for energy was signed by nearly 200 countries at the UN’s COP 28 climate conference in Dubai in December, bringing the world a step closer to cooperating on solutions such as renewable energy.

“Whilst we didn’t turn the page on the fossil fuel era in Dubai, this outcome is the beginning of the end,” UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Simon Stiell said in his closing speech. “Now all governments and businesses need to turn these pledges into real-economy outcomes, without delay.”