The global warming advances this year, making 2020 one of the warmest years ever recorded. According to the 2020 provisional State of the Global Climate report by the UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the year 2020 is set to be one of the three warmest years on record with the average global temperature about 1.2C above the pre-industrial level, despite a La Niña phenomenon which has a cooling effect on global temperatures. This decade (2011-2020) will be the warmest decade on record; the six warmest years on record have all been in the past six years (2015-2020). This trend is set to continue because of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
The report, which is based on temperature data from January to October, shows how high-impact events including extreme heat, wildfires and floods affected millions of people, compounded threats to human health and security and economic stability posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite the COVID-19 lockdown, which reduced industrial activities and decreased air traffic, atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases continued to rise, committing the planet to further warming for many generations to come because of the long lifetime of CO2 in the atmosphere, according to the report.
Moreover, the findings of the report are the following:
– Siberia saw a record temperature of 38C, more than 5°C above average. Extreme heat fueled the most active wildfire season in an 18-year long data record, as estimated in terms of CO2 emissions released from fires.
– Ice and glaciers continued their long-term retreat, with the Arctic ice reached their second lowest value in 42 years. In Greenland alone , an icy mass of 152 billion tons was lost from the ice sheet in the year to August 2020.
– Ocean heat is at record levels. More than 80% of the oceans experienced a heatwave in 2020, with nearly 50% of those considered strong. This harmed marine ecosystem already suffering from more acidic waters because of carbon dioxide.
– Ocean acidification is increasing. The ocean absorbs around 23% of the annual emissions of anthropogenic CO2 from the atmosphere, thereby helping to alleviate the impacts of climate change on the planet.
– Since the beginning of 1993, the sea level has risen more than three millimeters annually. Although there are no definitive figures for 2020, it is estimated that the rise will be similar to that of 2019, despite a slight decrease in recent months due to the La Niña.
The WMO assessment is based on five global temperature datasets, which all of those currently place 2020 as the 2nd warmest for the year to date, following 2016 and ahead of 2019. The difference between the warmest three years is small, however, and exact rankings for each data set could change once data for the entire year are available. The final 2020 report will be published in March 2021.
The Paris Agreement stipulates that the countries must act to prevent the global average temperature from rising more than 2°C and use whatever measures possible to limit this rise to 1.5°C. But with temperatures expected to continue rising, the WMO estimates there is a one in five chance of it temporarily exceeding 1.5°C by 2024. Such global warming will intensify extreme weather events such as floods, forest fires, and droughts.
In 2020, several regions of the world were grappling with wildfires of record sizes. All these fires propelled clouds of smoke to high altitudes that circled the Earth, while adding even more carbon dioxide to the greenhouse gases in our atmosphere.
With 96 cyclones and storms, the year 2020 is above the historical average. New evidence suggested that hurricanes and typhoons get stronger when they hit land because of rising temperatures.
Floods in different parts of the world displaced large numbers of people and undermined food security for millions. More than 50 million people have suffered a double impact this year: climate disasters and the pandemic. 10 million people turned into “climate refugees”, who had to leave their homes due to these extreme weather events.
This is the evidence that the entire planet is under climate emergency, and that failure to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and to build the adaptive capacities of communities to climate change would lead to unprecedented loss to human society, environment and global economy
Although the pandemic have been the biggest concern to many people in 2020, for millions in climate vulnerable places, the climate emergency remains the biggest threat.
We must step up climate ambition and action to achieve the 1.5°C long-term temperature goal of the Paris Agreement on climate change for the sake of future generations. The 1.5°C goal will enable vulnerable developing countries like the Philippines to survive and thrive.
Only greater ambition and urgent action in reducing the GHG emissions could help us meet the necessary scale and pace to evade the catastrophic effects of our changing climate.
Despite the country’s very small carbon footprint, the first and most urgent measures to reduce emissions include the exponential scaling up of renewable energy systems, energy efficiency, electrification of transport systems, and improvements of industrial and building efficiency on a global scale.
According to International Monetary Fund, the current global recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic makes it challenging to enact the policies needed for mitigation, but it also presents opportunities to set the economy on a greener path in order to boost investment in green and resilient public infrastructure, thus supporting GDP and employment during the recovery phase.
The economic slowdown from COVID-19 is not a substitute for climate action, but it provides a platform to set our economies on a greener, more resilient path,