THE United Nations report on the State of the Global Climate for 2020 was released recently. The 28th report of the World Metrological Organization (WMO) documents indicators of the climate system, including greenhouse gas concentrations, increasing land and ocean temperatures, sea-level rise, melting ice and glacier retreat and extreme weather.
According to WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas, all key climate indicators and associated impact information provided in the report highlight relentless, continuing climate change, an increasing occurrence and intensification of extreme events, and severe losses and damage, affecting people, societies and economies.
The report states that 2020 was one of the three warmest years on record, despite a cooling La Niña event. The global average temperature was about 1.2° Celsius above the pre-industrial (1850-1900) level. The six years since 2015 have been the warmest on record while 2011-2020 was the warmest decade on record.
The concentrations of the major greenhouse gases continued to increase in 2019 and 2020. The economic slowdown due to the pandemic temporarily depressed new greenhouse gas emissions, according to the United Nations Environment Programme (Unep), but had no discernible impact on atmospheric concentrations.
The year 2019 saw the highest ocean heat content on record, and this trend likely continued in 2020. The rate of ocean warming over the past decade was higher than the long-term average, indicating a continued uptake of heat trapped by greenhouse gases, according to the EU’s Copernicus Marine Service. Global mean sea level has risen throughout the satellite altimeter record (since 1993). It has recently been rising at a higher rate partly due to the increased melting of the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica.
There were extreme weather events, especially here in our country. The strongest tropical cyclone of the season was Typhoon Rolly, international name Goni. It crossed the northern Philippines on November 1 with a 10-minute mean wind speed of 220 km/h (or higher) at its initial landfall, making it one of the most intense landfalls on record. There was also heavy rain and extensive flooding over large parts of Africa and Asia in 2020.
Elsewhere, Tropical Cyclone Harold had significant impacts in the northern islands of Vanuatu on April 6, affecting about 65 percent of the population and also resulting in damage in Fiji, Tonga and the Solomon Islands. Storm Alex in early October brought extreme winds to western France with gusts as high as 186 km/h, whilst heavy rain extended across a wide area.
While there were strong typhoons in some countries, it was hot in other parts of the world. In the Caribbean, major heat waves occurred in April and September. Australia broke heat records in early 2020. The summer was very hot in parts of East Asia. Severe drought affected many parts of the interior of South America in 2020, with the worst-affected areas being northern Argentina, Paraguay and the western border areas of Brazil.
With all these pieces of evidence, climate change is real and cannot be denied.