2020 joint hottest year on record: study

Kate Abnett and Matthew Green
·2-min read

Last year tied with 2016 as the world's warmest on record, rounding off the hottest decade globally as the impacts of climate change intensified, a European Union study says.

After an exceptionally warm winter and autumn in Europe, the continent experienced its hottest year on record in 2020, while the Arctic suffered extreme heat, and atmospheric concentrations of planet-warming carbon dioxide continued to rise.

Scientists at the EU's Copernicus Climate Change Service said the latest data underscored the need for countries to slash greenhouse gas emissions to bring within reach the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement.

"The extraordinary climate events of 2020 and the data from the Copernicus Climate Change Service show us that we have no time to lose," Matthias Petschke, Director for Space in the European Commission, said.

The bloc's space programs include the Copernicus earth observation satellites.

In 2020, temperatures globally were an average of 1.25C higher than in pre-industrial times, Copernicus said.

The last six years were the world's hottest on record.

The Paris accord aims to cap the rise in temperatures to "well below" 2C and as close as possible to 1.5C to avoid the most devastating impacts of climate change.

"The key here is to ... reduce the amount we emit," Copernicus senior scientist Freja Vamborg said.

Last year also saw the highest temperature ever reliably recorded, when in August a California heatwave pushed the temperature at Death Valley up to 54.4C.

The Arctic and northern Siberia continued to warm more quickly than the planet as a whole in 2020, with temperatures in parts of these regions averaging more than 6C above a 30-year average used as a baseline, Copernicus said.

Scientists who were not involved in the study said it was consistent with growing evidence that climate change is contributing to more intense hurricanes, fires, floods and other disasters.