The climate crisis continued unabated in 2020, with the highest global temperatures on record, alarming heat and record wildfires in the Arctic, and a record 29 tropical storms in the Atlantic.
Despite a 7% drop in fossil fuel burning due to coronavirus lockdowns, heat-trapping carbon dioxide continued to accumulate in the atmosphere, also setting a new record. The average surface temperature across the planet in 2020 was 1.25 ° C higher than in the pre-industrial period of 1850-1900, dangerously close to the 1.5 ° C target set by the nations of the world to avoid the worst impacts.
Only 2016 matched the heat in 2020, but that year saw a natural El Niño weather event that increases temperatures. Without that, 2020 would likely have been the hottest year. Scientists have warned that without urgent action, the future of many millions of people “looks dark.”
Temperature data published by the European Union Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) showed that the past six years have been the hottest six on record. They also showed that Europe saw its hottest year on record, 1.6 ° C above the long-term average, with a scorching heat wave hitting western Europe in late July and early August.
The Arctic and northern Siberia saw particularly extreme average temperatures in 2020, with a large region 3 ° C higher than the long-term average and some locations more than 6 ° C higher. This resulted in extensive forest fires, with a record 244 million tons of CO2 launched within the Arctic Circle. Arctic sea ice was also significantly smaller, with July and October having the smallest extent on record for those months.
“[The year] 2020 stands out for its exceptional warmth in the Arctic ”, said Carlo Buontempo, director of C3S. “It is no wonder that the last decade has been the warmest ever recorded and is yet another reminder of the urgency of ambitious emission reductions to avoid adverse climate impacts.”
“The extraordinary climate events of 2020 show us that we have no time to lose,” said Matthias Petschke of the European Commission. “It will be difficult, but the cost of inaction is too high.”
“Despite the absence of the cyclical El Niño impulse to global temperatures [we are] getting dangerously close to the 1.5 ° C limit, ”said Professor Dave Reay of the University of Edinburgh. “Covid shutdowns around the world may have caused a slight drop in emissions, but CO2 Accumulation in the atmosphere continues to increase rapidly. Unless the global economic recovery from the nightmares of 2020 is green, the future for many millions of people around the world looks really bleak. “
CO level2 in the atmosphere hit a new record in 2020, with emissions cut due to Covid lockdowns described as a “little problem” by the UN World Meteorological Organization. Vincent-Henri Peuch, director of the Copernicus Atmospheric Monitoring Service, said: “Until net global emissions are reduced to zero, CO2 it will continue to accumulate in the atmosphere and further drive climate change. “
The UK Met Office issued a forecast on Friday that CO2 The levels will pass a new milestone in 2021: they will be 50% higher than before the Industrial Revolution. Their scientists said that CO2 it will exceed 417 parts per million (ppm) for several weeks from April to June, which is 50% higher than 278 ppm at the end of the 18th century, when industrial activity began.
This despite the expectation that the climatic conditions brought by El Niño’s counterpart, La Niña, will see increased natural growth in tropical forests that will absorb some of humanity’s emissions.
“Man-made build-up of CO2 in the atmosphere is accelerating, ”said Professor Richard Betts at the Met Office. “It took more than 200 years for the levels to increase by 25%, but now, just over 30 years later, we are approaching a 50% increase. Global emissions should be reduced to zero within the next 30 years if global warming is limited to 1.5 ° C. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism