IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis

2020 one of three hottest years ever recorded: U.N.

4th December, 2020 Environment

“Humanity is waging war on nature. This is suicidal. Nature always strikes back — and it is already doing so with growing force and fury,”

  • This year is on course to be one of the three warmest ever recorded, the United Nations warned that the world was on the brink of a “climate catastrophe”.
  • The past six years, 2015 to 2020, are set to make up all six of the hottest years since modern records began in 1850.
  • The 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change calls for capping global warming at well below two degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial (1850-1900) level, while countries will pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Changing frontiers

  • 2020 has been yet another extraordinary year for our climate. The average global temperature in 2020 is set to be about 1.2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level. There is at least a one in five chance of it temporarily exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2024.

Hottest decade

  • The WMO said 2020 seemed on course to be the second-hottest year ever.
  • The years from 2015 to 2020 are therefore individually “likely to be the six warmest on record”.
  • Temperature averages across the last five years, and across the last 10-year period, “are also the warmest on record”.
  • Oil, gas and coal production must fall six percent a year in order to limit catastrophic global warming, said the UN's annual Production Gap assessment, which measures the difference between the Paris goals and countries' fossil fuel production plans.
  • Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere — the main driver of climate change — hit record highs last year and continued climbing in 2020 despite measures to halt the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • The annual impact of the coronavirus crisis was expected to be a drop of between 4.2 and 7.5 percent in carbon dioxide emissions.
  • However, CO2 remains in the atmosphere for centuries, meaning the effect of the pandemic is negligible.

Wildfires, sweltering Siberia

  • New extreme temperatures on land, sea and especially in the Arctic consumed vast areas in Australia, Siberia, the US west coast and South America.
  • Flooding in parts of Africa and southeast Asia led to massive population displacement and undermined food security for millions.
  • This year's La Nina cool phase of the Pacific Ocean surface temperatures cycle raised the question of how hot 2020 might otherwise have been.
  • The WMO said that more than 80% of the ocean area had experienced at least one marine heatwave so far in 2020.
  • Recently, sea level has risen at a higher rate due partly to increased melting of ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica.
  • The 2020 provisional State of the Global Climate report is based on temperature data from January to October. The final 2020 report will be published in March 2021.