Geneva | The world is heading towards a “catastrophic” global warming in the 21st century, after a record year 2020 tied with 2016, the UN warned on Thursday, calling for “making peace with nature”.
According to a consolidation of five major international databases carried out by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), a UN agency, the year 2020 joined 2016 on the highest step of the hottest years in the world, in apotheosis of a decade of record temperatures.
“2020 has been a difficult year for the planet. It was the hottest year on record, barely exceeding the record set in 2016 by less than a tenth of a degree, ”NASA said.
This record warming was achieved despite the cooling caused at the end of the year by the natural oceanic phenomenon that is La Niña. While 2016, it was marked by a strong El Niño episode, a natural oceanic phenomenon that causes temperatures to rise.
“It is remarkable that the temperatures of 2020 were practically equivalent to those of 2016, when during the latter we witnessed one of the strongest warmings attributable to the El Niño phenomenon,” said the Secretary General of OMM, Petteri Taalas.
“It is therefore evident that human-induced climate change is now as powerful as the force of nature,” he said.
The La Niña episode which began in late 2020 is expected to continue until the middle of this year. Its effects are usually strongest in the second year of their onset, so it remains to be seen to what extent the cooling induced by La Niña might temporarily dampen the general warming trend.
According to the WMO, the notable features of the year 2020 are persistent heat and forest fires in Siberia, the small extent of the Arctic sea ice and a record hurricane season in the Atlantic.
“This year has been a very vivid example of what it is like to live under some of the most severe effects of climate change that we have predicted,” said Lesley Ott, of the Goddard Center at NASA.
In 2020, “we experienced first-hand how heat is expressed on our planet. The big fires, the intense hurricanes and the melting of the ice which we knew in 2020 are the direct consequences of the climate change caused by the man ”, noted Nasa.
All of these catastrophes are expected to intensify over the next decade, especially if human-made greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate.
“This is not the new normal. This is a prelude to what will follow, “warned Gavin Schmidt, director of the Institute for Space Studies at the Goddard Center at NASA.
The year 2020 ended at 1.25 ° C above the pre-industrial period, “and we are already witnessing unprecedented extreme weather phenomena in all regions and on all continents”, noted the Secretary General. of the UN, Antonio Guterres.
And to warn: “We are heading towards a catastrophic increase in temperature of 3 to 5 degrees during the 21st century”.
“Making peace with nature is the great mission of our century. It must be the absolute priority of everyone, everywhere in the world, ”insisted the UN chief.
The Paris Agreement aims to keep warming well below + 2 ° C, if possible + 1.5 ° C. According to the WMO, there is at least a one in five chance that this increase will temporarily exceed 1.5 ° C by 2024.