INSIGHT by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK)

In 2023, anomalies like high temperatures, ocean-warming and more frequent wild fire events have reached unprecedented records until now, shows a new report by an international team of researchers, among them Johan Rockström, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK).

The scientists find that these records weaken the Earth’s vital signs and warn that the increasingly frequent occurrences of climate-related if business is continued as usual.

The scientists note that 20 of 35 planetary vital signs used to track climate change are at record extremes. New data illustrate that many climate-related records were broken by “enormous margins” in 2023, particularly those relating to ocean temperatures and sea ice. Such anomalies might occur more frequently and could have increasingly severe impacts on life on Earth.

Among the key numbers in the report:

Fossil fuel subsidies – actions by governments that artificially lower the cost of energy production, raise the price received by producers or lower the price paid by consumers – roughly doubled between 2021 and 2022, from $531 billion to just over $1 trillion.

Already this year wildfires in Canada have contributed to more than 1 gigaton of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, greater than Canada’s total 2021 greenhouse gas emissions of 0.67 gigatons.

In 2023, there have already been 38 days with global average temperatures more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Until this year, such days were a rarity, the authors note.

The highest average Earth surface temperature ever recorded came this past July, and scientists say it could be the highest surface temperature the planet has seen in the last 100,000 years.


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The authors propose transitioning to a global economy that prioritizes human well-being and curtails overconsumption and excessive emissions. Specific recommendations include phasing out fossil fuel subsidies and scaling up forest protection efforts. The team of researchers emphasize that extreme weather and other climate impacts are being disproportionately felt by the poorest people, who have contributed the least to climate change.



The Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) is one of the leading research institutions addressing relevant questions in the fields of global change, climate impacts and sustainable development. Natural and social scientists work closely together to generate interdisciplinary insights that provide a sound basis for decision-making for society, businesses and politics. PIK is a member of the Leibniz Association.


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