Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Migration, mega-fines and Barbie: 2023 in records

From the record number of displaced people on the planet to the death of the world's oldest dog, here are ten standout numbers of 2023

Published: Dec 21, 2023 02:50:19 PM IST
Updated: Dec 21, 2023 03:10:12 PM IST

Migration, mega-fines and Barbie: 2023 in records People crowd at a market in Bangalore, India. Manjunath KIRAN / AFP

Sizzling temperatures, millions fleeing their homes, multitudes flocking to a movie about a doll—2023 was another year of extremes.


AFP looks at 10 standout numbers:

The great displacement

The number of people around the world displaced by conflict or humanitarian crises was already at a record high before the Israel-Gaza war began on October 7, adding to the misery.

By the end of September, 114 million people had been driven from their homes by wars in Ukraine, Sudan, Myanmar and the Democratic Republic of Congo and a humanitarian crisis in Taliban-run Afghanistan, among other factors, according to UN refugee agency the UNHCR.

They have since been joined by at least 1.9 million Gazans.

Hot as hell

One heat record after another tumbled in 2023, which is on course to be the hottest year on record, according to the European Union's climate monitor Copernicus.

The northern hemisphere had its hottest summer ever and temperature records were also smashed in the southern winter, with the Argentinian capital Buenos Aires experiencing its warmest August 1 on record at 30 degrees Celsius.

Rugby glory

Defending champions South Africa won a nail-biting final 12-11 against New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup, to claim a record fourth title and seal the growing role of rugby—once the sport of the white minority under apartheid—as a unifying force in multiracial South Africa.

"People who are not from South Africa don't understand what it means for our country. It is not just about the game. Our country goes through such a lot," captain Siya Kolisi said.

Indians outnumber Chinese

India overtook China to become the world's most populous country in mid-2023, accounting for nearly 1.43 billion of Earth's eight billion humans, according to the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

After peaking in 2022 at 1.426 billion, China's population has started to fall for the first time in six decades. By 2100 its population might be only half that of India, experts say.

Fossil fuel frenzy

Bad news for the climate: global consumption of coal, the dirtiest of all fossil fuels, hit an all-time high of 8.5 billion tonnes in 2023, the IEA energy watchdog said.

But for the first time ever, nations participating in the UN's annual climate summit agreed to "transition away" from coal, oil and gas.

Also read: Barbie leads the world... but in India, Oppenheimer rules

Billion-dollar Barbie

Cinemas got a much-needed post-pandemic boost when Greta Gerwig's blockbuster "Barbie" hit theatres worldwide with Margot Robbie as Mattel's iconic doll.

The film hit the billion-dollar box office mark faster than any film in Warner Bros.' 100-year history and made Gerwig the highest-grossing woman director ever.

Tennis titan

Serbian tennis legend Novak Djokovic continued his age-defying heroics by adding three more Grand Slams to his collection—the Australian Open, the French Open, and the US Open—giving him a record 24 men's singles titles, ahead of Spain's Rafael Nadal on 22.

He is now joint record-holder for men and women with Australia's Margaret Court who won 24 singles Grand Slams in the 1960s and 1970s.

Mercury mania

A record 2,000 bidders from 61 countries registered to take part when the piano that Queen frontman Freddie Mercury used to compose almost all of his greatest songs, and the original manuscript for "Bohemian Rhapsody", went under the hammer in London in September.

The baby grand was snapped up for over £3 million as part of the mega-auction of Mercury memorabilia that included items as diverse as a moustache comb and the door to Mercury's garden.

Also read: Climate scientists push back against COP28 cheer

Facebook mega-fine

The European Union this year ratcheted up its battle with Big Tech over privacy and other breaches.

Facebook was hit with a record penalty of 1.2 billion euros ($1.3 billion) in Ireland for illegally transferring personal data between Europe and the United States, in breach of EU rules requiring Europeans to consent to the ways in which their data is used.

A dog's (very long) life

Beloved Portuguese sheepdog Bobi had barely time to wag his tail over being ordained the world's oldest dog by the Guinness World Records in February when he was called to the canine everafter.

The purebred Rafeiro—a dog with a typical life expectancy of 12-14 years—lived to the ripe old age of 31 years and 165 days, with his owners crediting his longevity in part to his "human" diet.