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CO2 Budget Depletion

22 Sep 2023

The World Above 1.5°C: Flooding Disasters from Libya to Hong Kong

Global temperatures have slightly decreased after a  summer with 36 consecutive days above any previous record, a phenomenon not seen in at least 125,000 years. However, the two consecutive months above 1.5C provided a glimpse into future warming  that will soon be commonplace if we do not cut emissions urgently. The Paris Accords were designed to safeguard the conditions for human survival—that is, to keep us within life-sustaining planetary boundaries, including the key warming threshold of 1.5C above preindustrial levels.  

However, just two months above +1.5C has unleashed a cascade of global disasters, highlighting that even the widely accepted limit set in the Paris Agreement is not a universally safe space for hundreds of millions of people around the world.  

In early September, Storm Daniel struck Libya, triggering the deadliest flooding event in Africa since 1900. According to the WHO, 3,958 people are confirmed dead with as many as 9,000 still missing. The torrential rains that struck Libya were only one facet of the deadly impact of the climate crisis  and highlight the cascading consequences of extreme weather. A year’s worth of rain within 24 hours caused two already weakened dams to collapse, precipitating the flooding. The country’s low-lying coast makes it vulnerable to flooding, but its weak infrastructure and fragmented disaster preparation and response systems heighten community risk.  

Libya is just one area in the world that saw catastrophic flooding recently. Ten regions saw devastating flooding in just 12 days. Before hitting Libya, Storm Daniel became one of the strongest systems to touch down in Greece, according to Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. Streets turned into rivers; cars were washed into the sea. Nearby, people died in flooding in Türkiye, Bulgaria and Spain. In Asia, typhoons Haikui and Saola washed through southern China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, flooding metro systems and trapping drivers in their vehicles.  

In the United States, a hyperactive Atlantic cyclone season and jet stream blocks have brought flooding to parts of the East Coast, including New England and New York. In the west, Nevada’s Burning Man festival was turned into a giant mud pit. In South America, flooding in the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul earlier in September was the state’s worst natural disaster in 40 years.  

These global parallels are not random. We know that for each degree (centigrade) that the atmosphere warms, it can hold seven percent more moisture. We know that unprecedented ocean temperatures are driving storms. Many of these global weather patterns are influenced by the warming Arctic, which can alter precipitation and jet stream patterns. Like the flooding in Libya, which swept so many people away whilst asleep, those who bear the brunt of the climate crisis have often contributed the least to the global emissions responsible for it. Learn more about how global risks are associated with Arctic climate change here. 



The following gauges show up-to-date data regarding key indicators in the Arctic. These indicators clearly point to the crisis at hand.

Greenland rate of ice loss
13 million l/s
on average
13 million tonnes/s
on average
Arctic Sea Ice Extent
598,749 km²
below 1981-2010 average on 27-May-2024
231,177 mi²
below 1981-2010 average on 27-May-2024
Arctic Amplification
4 times
faster than global average
Arctic 66N+ Wildfire emissions
46.05 megatonnes CO₂e
CO₂e emissions in 2024 so far
Arctic Air Quality (PM2.5)
2.66 microgram per cubic meter
on 28-May-2024
Global mean Sea Level
since 1993