climate change

EU: last seven years the Earth’s warmest

Desertification seen south of Sahara, in Africa. Photo credit: Copernicus Sentinel data (2019), processed by ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO.

By Anders Lorenzen

Scientists from the European Union (EU) have found, that the last seven years have shattered all records and been the warmest years observed since records began.

They found that the past seven years were the world’s warmest by a clear margin, with 2016 and 2020 the warmest on record.  The EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), the EU’s Earth Observation Programme, said that records dating back to 1850 showed that in 2021 the global average temperature was 1.1-1.2 C above 1850-1900 levels.

The C3S director Carlo Buontempo said, “These events are a stark reminder of the need to change our ways, take decisive and effective steps toward a sustainable society and work towards reducing net carbon emissions”.

Atmospheric CO2 levels at record highs

Globally, the levels of CO2 and methane which are the main greenhouse gases continued to climb, and both hit record highs in 2021. Levels of CO2 in the atmosphere reached 414.3 parts per million in 2021, up by around 2.4 ppm from 2020, the scientists said.

C3S added that levels of methane, a particularly potent greenhouse gas, have jumped in the last two years. Possible reasons for the increase range from emissions of methane from oil and gas production, and from farming to natural sources like wetlands.

During the COP26 climate conference which took place in Glasgow, the UK in November last year, the US and the EU spearheaded an agreement to reduce methane emissions.

Uphill battle

There is broadly political and scientific agreement that temperature increases must be limited to 1.5 degrees C. to avoid the worst impacts and further climate change temperature increases. And, in order for this to happen, emissions would need to halve by 2030. COP26 only barely kept the 1.5°C goal alive and the UN has urged member states to try harder to increase ambition and come back again this year.

As countries are bouncing back from the COVID-19 pandemic, emissions are again on the rise.

And 2021 was a year dominated by climate-fuelled extreme weather, with hardly any place on the planet spared. If the beginning of 2022 is anything to go by, that trend looks set to continue.

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