2021 Among Earth’s Hottest Years, UN Says as Climate Meetings Start
(Bloomberg) -- The year 2021 is now expected to qualify among the hottest seven in history, all of them recorded since 2014, according to an early estimate by the United Nations World Meteorological Organization that was released Sunday.
The widely anticipated annual estimate of the year's temperature ranking and report on climate trends comes as diplomats converge on Glasgow, Scotland, for two weeks of UN talks. Countries will confer there on how to keep warming below 2°C (3.6° Fahrenheit) compared with preindustrial levels — and preferably 1.5°C.
The world has warmed 1.1°C since industrialization in the 19th century. The atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, the biggest driver of this heating, has reached beyond 413 parts per million. That’s the highest in the modern record and also in the geologic evidence from the past 125,000 years. Methane and nitrous oxide, both more potent and less prevalent than CO₂, also reached record levels of 262% and 123% of their preindustrial levels, according to the report.
Climate change continues to remake the planet at a pace gradual to human perception, but unprecedented in geologic history short of massive meteor strikes. Sea level continued to rise by 4.4 millimeters a year as water warms and expands, and higher temperatures melt glaciers, the report said. This year has seen rain for the first time at the Greenland ice sheet's highest point, an aberrant cold spell in Texas and brought fire-inducing tropical temperatures to Western Canada.
"Extreme events are the new norm," Petteri Taalas, secretary general of the World Meteorological Organization, said in a news release. “There is mounting scientific evidence that some of these bear the footprint of human-induced climate change."
The ocean absorbs on average 23% of the CO₂ that humanity emits. That carbon changes the ocean chemistry, making it more acidic — now more than it's been in at least 26,000 years, according to the report.
Hotter air holds more moisture, and releases it as rainfall. China's Henan Province in July weathered more rain than it usually sees in a year. More than 300 people died died in flash flooding and losses reached almost $18 billion. Days before that, Western Europe had record rain, flooding and landslides that killed more than 200 people. Much of subtropical South America experienced drought for the second year. Madagascar faces a historic drought-related malnutrition crisis.
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