The rate of global surface warming is crucial for tracking progress towards global climate targets, but is strongly influenced by interannual-to-decadal variability, which precludes rapid detection of the temperature response to emission mitigation. Here we use a physics based Green’s function approach to filter out modulations to global mean surface temperature from sea-surface temperature (SST) patterns, and show that it results in an earlier emergence of a response to strong emissions mitigation. For observed temperatures, we find a filtered 2011–2020 surface warming rate of 0.24 °C per decade, consistent with long-term trends. Unfiltered observations show 0.35 °C per decade, partly due to the El Nino of 2015–2016. Pattern filtered warming rates can become a strong tool for the climate community to inform policy makers and stakeholder communities about the ongoing and expected climate responses to emission reductions, provided an effort is made to improve and validate standardized Green’s functions.