JavaScript is off. Please enable to view full site.

2020 one of three hottest years ever recorded: UN

Thursday, December 03, 2020, 09:07 GMT+7
2020 one of three hottest years ever recorded: UN
Massive wildfires that devastated vast areas in Australia, Siberia, the US West Coast and South America in 2020 have been tied to climate change. Photo: AFP

This year is on course to be one of the three warmest ever recorded, the United Nations said Wednesday, as the UN chief warned the world was on the brink of "climate catastrophe".

The past six years, 2015 to 2020, are set to make up all six of the hottest years since modern records began in 1850, the UN's World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said in its provisional 2020 State of the Global Climate report.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the 2020 report spells out "how close we are to climate catastrophe".

"Apocalyptic fires and floods, cyclones and hurricanes are increasingly the new normal," he said in a speech at Columbia University in New York on the state of the planet.

"Humanity is waging war on nature. This is suicidal. Nature always strikes back -- and it is already doing so with growing force and fury."

The 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change calls for capping global warming at well below two degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial (1850-1900) level, while countries will pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 C.

Temperature progression since 1850, compared to the pre-industrial level average, according to the World Meteorological Organization. Photo: AFP

Temperature progression since 1850, compared to the pre-industrial level average, according to the World Meteorological Organization. Photo: AFP

"2020 has, unfortunately, been yet another extraordinary year for our climate," said WMO secretary-general Petteri Taalas.

"The average global temperature in 2020 is set to be about 1.2 C above the pre-industrial level.

"There is at least a one in five chance of it temporarily exceeding 1.5 C by 2024."

Hottest decade

The WMO said 2020 seemed on course to be the second-hottest year ever.

The years from 2015 to 2020 are therefore individually "likely to be the six warmest on record", the report said.

Temperature averages across the last five years, and across the last 10-year period, "are also the warmest on record", it added.

A woman washes her cooking pot in the flood waters outside her house in Sreenagar, Bangladesh on July 20, 2020.

A woman washes her cooking pot in the floodwaters outside her house in Sreenagar, Bangladesh on July 20, 2020. Photo: AFP

Neville Nicholls from Monash University in Melbourne said this was "testament to the acceleration of global warming".

"We took about a century for our greenhouse gases to warm the globe by 1 C; we are on track to add another 1 C in just the next 30 years," he said.

Oil, gas and coal production must fall six percent a year in order to limit catastrophic global warming, said the UN's annual Production Gap assessment, which measures the difference between the Paris goals and countries' fossil fuel production plans.

Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere -- the main driver of climate change -- hit record highs last year and continued climbing in 2020 despite measures to halt the Covid-19 pandemic.

The annual impact of the coronavirus crisis was expected to be a drop of between 4.2 and 7.5 percent in carbon dioxide emissions.

The drought affecting the Cerro Lake, allegedly polluted by chemical disposals from a tannery located on its banks, is visible on October 19, 2020, in Limpio, 25 km northeast of Asuncion, Paraguay.  Photo: AFP

The drought affecting the Cerro Lake, allegedly polluted by chemical disposals from a tannery located on its banks, is visible on October 19, 2020, in Limpio, 25 km northeast of Asuncion, Paraguay. Photo: AFP

However, CO2 remains in the atmosphere for centuries, meaning the effect of the pandemic is negligible.

Taalas was nonetheless encouraged by China's bid for carbon neutrality by 2060 and US president-elect Joe Biden's 2050 target, saying these and pledges from the European Union, Japan and Canada could trigger countries like India and Russia to follow suit.

Earlier Wednesday, New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern declared a "climate emergency", telling parliament that urgent action was needed for the sake of future generations.

Wildfires, sweltering Siberia

Taalas said that 2020 saw "new extreme temperatures on land, sea and especially in the Arctic.

"Wildfires consumed vast areas in Australia, Siberia, the US west coast and South America.

"Flooding in parts of Africa and southeast Asia led to massive population displacement and undermined food security for millions."

A boy cools off at a water fountain in Montpellier, southern France, on June 27, 2019 during a heat wave. Photo: AFP

A boy cools off at a water fountain in Montpellier, southern France, on June 27, 2019 during a heat wave. Photo: AFP

The heat in northern Siberia reached 38 C at Verkhoyansk on June 20, provisionally the highest known temperature anywhere north of the Arctic Circle.

This year's La Nina cool phase of the Pacific Ocean surface temperatures cycle raised the question of how hot 2020 might otherwise have been.

The WMO said that more than 80 percent of the ocean area had experienced at least one marine heatwave so far in 2020.

"Recently sea level has risen at a higher rate due partly to increased melting of ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica," the report said.

"In the Arctic, the annual minimum sea-ice extent was the second lowest on record."

Meanwhile a record 30 named storms, including 13 hurricanes, formed in the Atlantic Ocean, exhausting the alphabet and forcing a switch to the Greek alphabet for only the second time ever.

The 2020 provisional State of the Global Climate report is based on temperature data from January to October.

The final 2020 report will be published in March 2021.

Indian migrant shepherd Ranabhai, from Vaundh village of Kutch, kneels down amongst his dead sheep at a field in Ranagadh village of Surendranagar district, some 85 kms from Ahmedabad, India on June 4, 2019. Photo: AFP

Indian migrant shepherd Ranabhai, from Vaundh village of Kutch, kneels down amongst his dead sheep at a field in Ranagadh village of Surendranagar district, some 85 kms from Ahmedabad, India on June 4, 2019. Photo: AFP

AFP

More

Read more

Explainer: China's new COVID-19 outbreaks

There is no indication that it was related to any recent imported cases, though officials said on Wednesday that the initial case might have been a traveller from overseas

2 days ago
;

Photos

VIDEOS

Vietnamese youngster travels back in time with clay miniatures

Each work is a scene caught by Dung and kept in his memories through his journeys across Vietnam

Experience summer sand-boarding in Mui Ne

Sand-boarding, a popular activity amongst local children in the coastal tourism town of Mui Ne in south-central Vietnam, is attracting hundreds of tourists to the Red Sand Dunes

Young maple trees given better protection as Hanoi enters rainy season

The trees are currently growing well, with green leaves and healthy branches.

Hunting skinks for food in southern Vietnam

Skink meat is known to be soft, tasty, and highly nutritious.

Vietnamese-made app allows people to grow real veggies via smartphone

Nguyen Thi Duyen, a young engineer in Hanoi, developed the app and its related services to help busy people create their own veggie gardens.

Latest news