A look back at 2020 evokes an unsettling picture: It was, after all, the year when the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 held the world by a thread, causing massive economic setbacks and upending lives. At the same time, the climate crisis continued to contribute to volatile weather events.
Carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) are the three primary GHGs that cause anthropogenic global warming and N2O and Nitrous oxide are becoming the next big concern in terms of its increasing concentrations in the atmosphere and global warming potential. As the GHG emissions continue to be on the rise Earth is also getting warmer and this has spiralled into motion several catastrophic events this year alone as: global temperature rise, heat accumulation and cyclones.
The planet was warmer by 1.2 degrees Celsius from January to October in 2020 than the pre-industrial average measured between 1850 and 1900, according to the Nature report and this is the second-warmest recorded. But it’s important to highlight that global warming brings a lot of consequences in its wake as an increase in sea levels, melting ice sheets in the Arctic and Antarctic and extreme weather events such as marine heat waves, tropical cyclones, heavy rainfall, floods, droughts and wildfires.
Ocean heat content (OHC) is one of the most crucial indicators of global warming and all datasets agree that OHC increased significantly in the last two decades. Global sea-level rise in 2020 was also similar to 2019 values and this was mainly due to the increased melting of the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica.
Extreme weather events such as tropical cyclones, floods, heavy rainfall and droughts impacted many parts of the world. The most dramatic was the record-breaking Atlantic Hurricane Season that that witnessed 30 named storms from June 1 to November 30, which is the highest ever recorded. Apart from the storms, heavy rainfall and flooding in several parts of Asia and Africa led to loss of human lives, property and livelihoods. The WMO State of the Global Climate report stated that “climate and weather events have triggered significant population movements and have severely affected vulnerable people on the move”.