LONDON – Last year 2016 was the warmest year in the world and rounded off the hottest decade in the world as the effects of climate change intensified, the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service announced on Friday.
After an exceptionally warm winter and autumn in Europe, the continent had its hottest year in existence in 2020 as the Arctic experienced extreme heat and atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide continued to rise to warm the planet.
Scientists said the latest data underscores the need for countries and companies to cut greenhouse gas emissions fast enough to meet the 2015 Paris Agreement goals and avoid catastrophic climate change.
“The extraordinary climate events of 2020 and the data from the Copernicus Climate Change Service show us that we have no time to lose,” said Matthias Petschke, Director of Space in the European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union.
In 2020, temperatures around the world were on average 1.25 ° C higher than in pre-industrial times, said Copernicus. The past six years have been the hottest in the world.
The Paris Agreement aims to limit temperature rise to “well below” 2 ° C and as close as possible to 1.5 ° C in order to avoid the most devastating effects of climate change.
The highest temperature ever recorded was also recorded last year when a California heat wave in August raised the temperature in Death Valley in the Mojave Desert to 54.4 ° C (129.92 ° F).
The Arctic and northern Siberia continued to warm faster than the entire planet in 2020. In parts of these regions, temperatures averaged more than 6 ° C above the 30-year average used as a base, Copernicus said.
The region also had an “unusually active” forest fire season, with fires along the Arctic Circle releasing a record 244 million tons of CO2 in 2020, more than a third more than in 2019.
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Scientists not involved in the study said this was in line with growing evidence that climate change is contributing to more intense hurricanes, fires, floods, and other disasters.
In the United States, the cost of life and harm is rising rapidly, said Adam Smith, a climate researcher with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
“We need another dictionary to describe how these extremes play out and unfold year after year,” said Smith, who tracks climate-related disasters that cause more than a billion dollars in damage.