2020 has continued the trend of above average temperatures and according to the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) is set to be the third warmest year on record. It will be behind 2016 and 2019, meaning now the warmest seven years on record are the most recent seven years, starting with 2014.
WMO calculates this using information from five global temperature datasets, which are then compared to historical records from 1850-1900, a figure often referred to as pre-industrial levels. The Industrial Revolution is when temperatures seemed to start be rising exponentially.
Due to the increasing loss of sea ice (whose bright white colour reflects the sun’s solar radiation and keeps temperatures down), the Arctic is melting the fastest with the Siberian Arctic being a huge five degrees above pre-industrial levels. A reading of 38 degrees received this year is currently the highest known temperature recorded north of the Arctic Circle. The year 2020 is globally set to be around 1.2 degrees above pre-industrial levels.
These figures do not surprise scientists, who see record breaking numbers every year this last decade. However, to be more positive new climate promises from nations, including US President- elect Joe Biden, mean the rise is world temperatures could be held at 2.1 degrees. While not the 2015 Paris Agreement’s goal of 1.5 degrees it is a huge improvement on the 2.7 degrees we were heading towards this September.
These climate promises come as multiple countries follow the trend of announcing net zero carbon emission targets. China, the world’s largest polluter, has aimed for 2060 which will cause considerable reductions on its own. Japan, South Korea, Canada and South Africa are all aiming for 2050. This, along with Joe Biden’s extensive aims to tackle Climate Change, means over 50% of
global emissions are covered with a net zero target, as most carbon emissions comes from a select few countries
In the short term, it’s believed the pandemic may be an opportunity to focus on renewable energy investment, which would help countries hit their 2030 targets. The high temperatures this year are already being reflected in the large amount of extreme weather events, including the well-publicised Australian and the US West Coast bushfires and a record-breaking 30 named storms in the North Atlantic hurricane season. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has stated Climate Change is the biggest threat to World Heritage Sites for the first time.