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  • Has 2020 Been the Warmest Year on Record?

Has 2020 Been the Warmest Year on Record?

Dec 16 2020 Read 768 Times

2020 is going to go down as one of the warmest years on record, according to the latest data published by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO). The provisional assessment released earlier this month predicts that this year will be third overall in the list of hottest ever years, behind both 2016 and 2019. Overall, the six years warmest years since records began in 1850 have all taken place since 2015.

The news is concerning for the environmental community, who worry that the continuing rise in global temperatures caused by anthropogenic activity could mean the world misses out on its Paris climate summit goals by some distance. Indeed, one expert on the subject called the WMO’s data “a full red alert” on the urgency of the situation, which he called “parlous”.

21st-century heat

The predictions from the WMO mean that 2020 will take its place as one of the warmest ever years on record, with the top six all having occurred in the last six years. 2016 looks set to remain as the warmest year experienced across the globe, and while 2020 is currently ahead of 2019 by all estimations, a predicted cooling of temperatures caused by La Niña in November and December should see this year slip to third place.

2020 has been a year quite like no other in living memory, and although the short-term environmental implications of coronavirus may have seen an improvement in air quality and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, that latter phenomenon is expected to be negligible in the grand scheme of things. Indeed, emissions from agriculture – which account for almost 10% of all emissions in the UK – remained largely unchanged this year, even as other sectors such as industry and aviation fell away.

Indeed, given that agriculture is a leading contributor of methane, and that gas has a global warming potential (GWP) 25 times greater than CO2, it’s clear that methane monitoring is a must. The elevated temperatures experienced in 2020 and in recent years only serve to underline the seriousness of the problem.

Yet another wake-up call

One spectator was particularly concerned about the WMO report. “These annual updates of deteriorating planetary health always make for bleak reading; this year's is a full red alert. Surging heat, intensifying droughts and rampant wildfires all speak of the acute impacts of climate change in 2020”, explained Professor Dave Reay from the University of Edinburgh.

“They also warn of the chronic undermining of global carbon sinks - the oceans, trees and soils around the world - that is underway. Throw yet more emissions and warming at them and they will rip the Paris climate goals from our grasp forever. The year ahead will be defined by our recovery from Covid-19, the centuries ahead will be defined by how green that recovery actually is.”

In order to bring about the green recovery that the world so desperately needs, governments around the globe must ensure that any economic stimulus packages that they put together to bounce back from coronavirus include incentives aimed at more sustainable ways of living and working. Only by implementing concrete and wide-sweeping changes will the trends of global warming experienced in the recent years be reversed.

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