With Antarctica experiencing record-breaking temperatures twice in the space of one week, it has been declared that January 2020 was the hottest January on record, according to a report released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Dating back to 1880, the data shows that last month’s global surface temperature across land and ocean was 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit (1.14 Celsius) above the twentieth-century average.
Furthermore, NOAA’s data corresponds to that of the European Union’s Earth Observation Programme, Copernicus, a series of Sentinel satellites managed by the ESA. The Copernicus Climate Change Service announced this year’s global temperatures have already begun to exceed the previous records set in 2016.
Of the 1,681 months of the climate record, only March 2016, February 2016, and December 2015 each had a greater temperature from average than January 2020.
In the preceding 12 months – February 2019 to January 2020 – average temperatures were well above the 1981-2010 average. This January, average temperatures soared some 9 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius) over central parts of North Siberia, Northeastern Europe, and Northeast Canada. Yet, the major difference is that this year there is no El Niño event which was thought to be a factor in the 2015 and 2016 average temperature rises.
According to NOAA, since 2002, average temperatures for January have continued to increase with four of those in the last four years. While three of these do come on the back of El Niño events there is still the suggestion we are seeing an acceleration of global land and ocean surface temperatures due to human activity induced climate change.
If global trends continue where greenhouse emissions are concerned then we are set to see record-breaking temperatures become increasingly common.
Back in December 2015 at the United nations Climate Change Conference (COP21), world leaders and governments signed the Paris Agreement, making a pledge to keep a global temperature rise this century below 2 degree Celsius (3.6 degree Fahrenheit). The aim of the agreement is to keep temperatures below the global tipping point in order to reduce further escalation of extreme weather events including heavy flooding and heatwaves. Such events could lead to an upsurge in food crises and climate refugees.
The Paris Agreement also contains contingencies that would help vulnerable or at-risk areas of the planet cope with the impacts of climate change as well as having economic ambitions consistent with low “greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient pathway.” Yet, the data provided by NOAA and the European Commission contradicts such ambitions as global-warming from human-based activity is advancing rather than receding.
Scientists have declared that in order to prevent a further escalation of the current climate crisis and reach a catastrophic tipping point, solutions are required to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. This is also in line with the ambitions of the Paris Agreement; however, some countries are a long way from reaching this goal while others are actually increasing carbon emissions.
The Truth Behind the Climate Pledges report, published late last year, gives notice to the fact that the failure to reduce emissions in line with scientific recommendations and the Paris Agreement will lead to economic losses of around 2 billion US dollars per day. These costs will mostly be due to extreme weather events caused by increased global temperatures. Furthermore, a warming planet means that human lives, food, and water supplies as well as global biodiversity will be hit hard unless we act now.