The US space agency NASA has revealed that the Covid-hit 2020 was the warmest year on record, just barely surpassing the record set in 2016 by less than a tenth of a degree.
The heat record comes after a year punctuated by climate disasters: Massive wildfires in Australia, Siberia, and the US west coast -and many of the fires were still burning during the busiest Atlantic hurricane season on record.
Last December, the World Meteorological Organization predicted that 2020 would be one of the three warmest years on record. All five datasets surveyed by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO)concur that 2011-2020 was the warmest decade on record, 2020 being one of the three warmest years on record, according to an analysis by NASA.
2016, 2019, and 2020 were the top three warmest years with the differences in their average global temperatures being indistinguishably small. The average global temperature in 2020 was about 14.9 degrees Celsius, 1.2 (± 0.1) degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial (1850-1900) level.
Additionally, June 2020 was the warmest or second warmest June since records began in 1850 across most of the surface temperature datasets analyzed by Carbon Brief.
La Niña fails to cool the planet down
La Niña is a natural event characterized by abnormal cold ocean temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific. It is actually the opposite of El Niño which is normally realized when the Equatorial Pacific experiences unusual warm ocean temperatures.
La Niña is thus defined as the intense cooling of the eastern and central tropical Pacific Ocean, frequently experienced together with warmer than normal sea surface temperatures in the west side of the Pacific. This small difference in temperature increase has a substantial impact on the world’s climate.
La Niña began late last year. It is expected to continue into the early-middle part of 2021.
"The exceptional heat of 2020 is despite a La Niña event, which has a temporary cooling effect", said WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas.
La Niña and El Niño effects on average global temperatures are typically strongest in the second year of the event.
Most troubling to scientists is that this year's near record-setting temperatures happened without a boost from the climatic weather phenomenon known as El Niño, which is a large-scale ocean-atmosphere climate interaction linked to periodic warming.
"The previous record warm year, 2016, received a significant boost from a strong El Niño. The lack of a similar assist from El Niño this year is evidence that the background climate continues to warm due to greenhouse gases," Schmidt said, in a statement.
The extent to which the continued cooling effects of La Niña this year may temporarily diminish the overall long-term warming trend remains to be seen.
The Driving Force
It started in January when heat and drought stoked unprecedented wildfires across Australia. When the flames were finally extinguished, the fires had charred an area larger than the state of Florida.
"The large wildfires, intense hurricanes, and ice loss we saw in 2020 are direct consequences of human-induced climate change. And they're projected to continue and escalate into the next decade, especially if human-induced greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate," said NASA.
This year also brought one of the busiest and most intense Atlantic hurricane seasons on record, with 30 named storms. And in the Arctic, some of the most extreme temperatures anywhere on Earth were observed in 2020.
The planet is losing about 13.1 percent of Arctic sea ice by the area each decade, according to sea ice minimum data from NASA and the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado.
Causes Remain The Same
Despite the COVID-19 lockdown and a halt to global production and transportation, we still have the highest CO2 levels on record.
Human-produced greenhouse gas emissions are largely responsible for warming our planet. According to NASA, carbon dioxide levels have increased by nearly 50 per cent since the 'Industrial Revolution' 250 years ago. The amount of methane in the atmosphere has more than doubled.
As a result, during this period, Earth has warmed by just over 1 degree Celsius. With this, the earth will experience more severe heatwaves and droughts, larger and more extreme wildfires, and longer and more intense hurricane seasons on average.
"This year has been a very striking example of what it's like to live under some of the most severe effects of climate change that we've been predicting," said Lesley Ott, a research meteorologist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in the US.
Bringing A Change
If the climate change at the current rate would continue then that day won't be far when the human race might extinct or at least suffer badly. This is real, face it or not it will come, so it's better we start acting on it right away.
Plant more trees
Shockingly, every year 33 million acres of forests are cut down. If we improve the agricultural practices which include forest management, proper paper recycling, and planting more trees, there is a chance that equilibrium could be maintained.
Focus on Renewable Energy
Fossil fuels will be finished in a couple of decades and it is high time to move towards renewable energy. In many parts of the world, many cities are using energy from renewable sources of energy which includes wind, solar, tidal, ocean, and many more.
The easiest way to cut back on greenhouse gas emissions is simply to buy less stuff. Whether by forgoing an automobile or employing a reusable grocery sack, cutting back on consumption results in fewer fossil fuels being burned to extract, produce, and ship products around the globe. Think green before purchasing anything.
In almost every house, there are at least a dozen appliances which include air conditioner, television, microwave, washing machine etc. These devices lead to global warming and hence climate change. They consume more energy when they are switched off as compared to when these are switched on. So, it is advisable to unplug the appliances when they are not in use. It will decrease the rate of emission of harmful gases and would control global warming and then climate change. Apart from this, every person should use their appliances smartly and efficiently. The latest technology whose use is increasing is the use of LED lights. Soon they will overcome the CFLs. LED lights are efficient and consume less energy.
Everyday Solutions to Global Warming
There are many steps that every individual can take in order to control climate change. A small step by every person can make a big change.
- Drive less and cycle more or carpool while going to work.
- Make your house more airtight.
- Buy and use a programmable thermostat.
- Use power strips in your home office.
- Upgrade your refrigerator and air conditioner, especially if they are more than five years old.
- Change light bulbs to LED lights.