2020 was one of the warmest years on record

Rahul Khanna

The year 2020 was one of the warmest years in recorded history, according to data analyzed by groups such as the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and NASA. 

According to NASA, 2020 tied with 2016 in terms of the highest global average temperature in history and continued this decade’s trend of increasing temperatures. The average global temperature in 2020 was about 14.9°C (58.82°F), roughly 1.2°C above the pre-industrial level in the late 19th century. In comparison, 2018 was only 0.8°C above the pre-industrial level. 

“The confirmation by the World Meteorological Organization that 2020 was one of the warmest years on record is yet another stark reminder of the relentless pace of climate change, which is destroying lives and livelihoods across our planet,” United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said. 

The high temperatures seen in 2020 are despite the cooling effect that should have taken place due to El Niño, a weather phenomenon that occurs when water in the Pacific Ocean near the equator is heated, causing abnormal temperature changes around the world. 

“This is a clear indication that the global signal from human-induced climate change is now as powerful as the force of nature,” WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas said. 

Although many scientists hoped that the reduced carbon dioxide emissions due to the COVID-19 pandemic would slow global warming, the reduction in carbon emissions was not enough to be noticeable or significant. Natural disasters such as the Australian bush fires further amplified the problem. 

The rising temperatures are predicted to lead to more severe natural disasters, more intense heat waves, the loss of sea ice, changes in animal habitats and more. Nations may be looking to re-evaluate the goals set in the Paris Agreement, which aimed to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

“We are headed for a catastrophic temperature rise of 3-5°C this century,” Guterres said. “Making peace with nature is the defining task of the 21st century. It must be the top priority for everyone, everywhere.”