Less carbon dioxide was released in 2020. But that doesn’t change the long-standing trend: 2019 and 2020 are both virtually the hottest year on record.
The Corona pandemic brought the economies of the world to their knees over the past year, but it has hardly helped the climate. Although greenhouse gas emissions slowed down in the short term, their concentration in the atmosphere continued to increase. This is what the World Weather Organization (WMO) writes on Monday in its final report on the global climate 2020. Now that all the measurement data are available: 2020 was one of the three warmest years ever recorded.
The global average temperature in 2020 was about 1.2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. It was only slightly warmer in 2016. The figures for 2019 and 2020 are so close together that it is not possible to say what the warmer year was, said the WMO spokeswoman in Geneva. In fact, the experts had expected a cooling effect from the Pacific weather phenomenon La Nia, which occurred in 2020. However, this effect only occurred so late in the year that it no longer mattered. The ten years from 2011 to 2020 were the warmest decade.
If so much carbon dioxide continues to be emitted, CO2Concentration on a global average will rise to 414 ppm (parts per million, parts per million) or more this year, according to the WMO. In 2019, the figure was just over 410 ppm, but in 2020 there was an increasing trend, but no exact, final figure was yet to be made. The value of 410 ppm is 148 percent above the so-called pre-industrial level, which refers to the average values of the years 1850 to 1900. Methane and nitrous oxide are also particularly relevant. The concentration of methane was 260 percent, and in nitrous oxide 123 percent higher than historical values.
The report reaffirms “relentless climate change,” said WMO Secretary General Petteri Taalas. Neither climate action nor the short-term reduction in emissions can reverse the global trend in the coming decades. It is therefore important to adapt to more frequent and intense extreme weather conditions, which will cause significant damage and affect millions of people.
To avert the worst effects of climate change, experts say that temperature rises should not exceed 1.5 degrees by the end of the century. The international community wants to achieve this goal as far as possible after the Paris climate agreement. To do this, greenhouse gas emissions would have to be 45 percent below 2010 levels by 2030, according to UN figures. Without new and more ambitious climate protection targets, this is likely to fail, according to scientists.
In the forthcoming agreement on its climate target, Europe must become even more ambitious, said Viviane Raddatz, Head of Climate Protection and Energy Policy at the environmental foundation WWF Germany: “Europe must save at least 65 percent emissions by 2030 – without a sleight of hand like the imputation of CO2-Save, which includes forests.”