It isn't often that you hear about scientists - usually the stoic, more measured, more prepared among us - being 'gobsmacked'. Yet that is exactly how the BBC chose to describe the reaction of an experienced researcher, Zeke Hausfather, to the latest average temperatures for the planet, which happened to be for the month of September. The way Hausfather, a climate scientist and energy systems analyst at Berkeley Earth (based out of Cal Berkeley), himself described it on Twitter was "absolutely gobsmackingly bananas".

It wasn't just the warmest September on record. It was so by a country mile, or more. The previous record was exceeded by an 'extraordinary amount', according to the deputy director of the Copernicus Climate Change Service, who were the first to release the data (see World this Week). We're already on course for the hottest year since records began (read ever, barring a few cataclysmic events in prehistoric times). This is our third editorial this year on record heat. But this isn't just about breaking the thermometer. It is about what we are willing to do about it as well. There can be no doubt that the scale of heating witnessed this year puts new pressure on politicians to act, as they prepare to gather for the COP28 climate summit at the end of November.

On the evidence so far though, they are still falling short. While the September data was coming in, a group of thirty developed countries were at the Green Climate Fund Pledging Summit in Bonn. They ended up missing their own conservative target of raising $10 billion between them. Not by much, but overall the commitments fall short of the scale that is needed to tackle the urgency of climate impacts that are hitting vulnerable communities mostly in the developing world. Five of them failed to commit anything at all, with Australia, Switzerland, Italy and Sweden claiming to make pledges later and the USA failing to even do that.

Only Ireland's 150% pledge increase was deemed praiseworthy, while nations such as Japan and Norway raised concern with their tepid offerings. Some countries, like Sweden, seemed eager to sidestep their own obligations by urging developing nations to contribute to the Fund. A US representative said the country was not in a position to pledge due to uncertainty in its domestic budget process. China, meanwhile, very conveniently refuses to deem itself wealthy enough to even be part of the group.

The amount raised, $9.3 billion, represents just a fraction of the $200-$250 billion that developing countries will need every year by 2030 to adapt to climate change, according to the UN's latest estimate. Hanging over it all of course is the still-unmet pledge that rich nations made in 2009, to deliver $100 billion in climate finance each year by 2020.

What are we to make of it all? These rich, industrialised nations' pledges have always been essential to establishing climate justice, or what has more recently come to be known as 'Loss and Damage' in the framework of the UN-led climate change conference. That original promise in 2009, made in Copenhagen, was informed by the recognition of the historic injustice many poor nations have suffered. On the one hand, the damage to the climate wrought by industrialised nations has been borne most heavily by them - you need look no further than Bangladesh. On the other hand, we are also now asking these nations to not avail the often cheap energy sources that the industrialised world did in climbing up the ladder to the 'First World'. Success at COP28 in Dubai, the next UN-led climate conference, will hinge on countries launching and putting money into the new climate damages fund. The question is, do they care to succeed?

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