‘Relentless’ climate crisis intensified in 2020, says UN report
Pandemic had no effect on atmospheric CO2 levels but made impacts of global heating worse for millions, report says
There was a “relentless” intensification of the climate crisis in 2020, according to the UN’s World Meteorological Organization.
The coronavirus pandemic made the accelerating impacts of global heating even worse for millions of people. But the temporary dip in carbon emissions due to lockdowns had no discernible impact on atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, the WMO report said.
Last year was ranked as the hottest on record, in a tie with 2016 and 2019, despite the cooling effect of the cyclical natural climate phenomenon, La Niña. Without this, 2020 would most likely have been the hottest year yet. The decade 2011-20 was the hottest on record.
Extreme weather events broke records across the world, from hurricanes and cyclones in the US and India, heatwaves in Australia and the Arctic, floods in large parts of Africa and Asia, and wildfires in the US.
“All the key climate and impacts information in this report highlight relentless, continuing climate change, an increasing occurrence and intensification of extreme events, and severe losses and damage, affecting people, societies and economies,” said Petteri Taalas, the WMO secretary general.
The WMO’s State of the Climate report comes just before a global leaders’ summit, convened by the US president, Joe Biden, and as the UK prepares to host the crucial Cop26 UN climate summit in November, at which urgent action must be agreed to meet the goals of the 2015 Paris agreement, to keep the global temperature increase to well below 2C and 1.5C if possible. In 2020, the temperature was 1.2C above pre-industrial levels.
“This is the year for action,” said the UN head, António Guterres. “The climate is changing, and the impacts are already too costly for people and the planet".
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