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Provisional Report on the State of the Global Climate 2020: WMO

  • 04 Dec 2020
  • 6 min read

Why in News

According to the latest State of the Global Climate provisional report by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the year 2020 is set to be among the three warmest on record. Also, the decade 2011-2020 would be the warmest ever.

  • The final report will be published in March 2021. The State of the Global Climate report is published annually to keep a track of global warming.
  • WMO is one of the specialized agencies of the United Nations (UN).

Key Points

  • Rise in Global Temperature:
    • The global mean surface temperature for January-October 2020 was 1.2 degree Celsius higher than the pre-industrial baseline (1850-1900).
      • There is at least a one in five chance of it temporarily exceeding 1.5 °C by 2024.
      • The Paris Agreement central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
    • 2020 will be one of the three hottest, just behind 2016 and 2019.
      • The record heat in 2020 has been despite near-La Niña conditions prevailing in the equatorial Pacific Ocean since August and moderate La Niña conditions prevailing since October.
      • The La Niña phase of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon generally has a cooling effect on many parts of the world.
  • High Temperature over Ocean Surfaces:
    • 80% of ocean areas have experienced at least one marine heat wave (MHW) so far in 2020.
      • Heat wave is a period of prolonged abnormally high surface temperatures relative to those normally expected.
      • At the time of MHW, the average temperature of the ocean surface (up to a depth of 300 feet or more) rises by 5-7°C above normal.
      • MHWs can be caused by locally formed heat fluxes between the atmosphere and the ocean or due to large-scale drivers of the Earth’s climate like the ENSO.
      • There were also much more strong MHWs (43%) over the oceans in 2020 than moderate ones (28%).
    • Global sea-level rise was also similar to 2019 value.This was mainly due to the increased melting of the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica.
  • Reasons: Scientific evidence indicates increasing temperatures are a direct result of human-led global warming which is an impact of the emission of greenhouse gases (GHG).
    • After record GHG levels of 2019, there has been a slight dip this year due to measures taken by many countries to fight the ongoing novel coronavirus disease (Covid-19 pandemic).
    • However, data from specific locations, including Mauna Loa (Hawaii) and Cape Grim (Tasmania) indicate that levels of Carbon dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4) and Nitrogen dioxide (N2O) continued to increase in 2020.
  • Consequences of Global Warming in 2020:
    • Extreme weather events such as tropical cyclones, floods, heavy rainfall and droughts impacted many parts of the world and cases of wildfire have also increased this year.
      • Atlantic Hurricane Season: The season witnessed 30 named storms from June to November which is the highest number ever recorded.
      • Heavy Rains: There was heavy rainfall and flooding in many parts of Asia and Africa.
      • Droughts: South America experienced severe droughts with northern Argentina, Paraguay and western areas of Brazil being some of the worst affected.
    • Sea-level rise: Melting of ice resulted in sea level rise which is an existential concern for the small island nations.
      • A significant sea-level rise by the end of the century will mean that these countries will drown in the oceans and their respective populations will be homeless.
    • Loss to Humanity:
      • Population Movements: The climate and weather events have triggered significant population movements and have severely affected vulnerable people on the move, including in the Pacific region and Central America.
      • Agricultural Losses: Brazil alone recorded agricultural losses of 3 billion American dollars.
      • Loss of Human lives, Property and Livelihoods: The most affected were the Sahel and Greater Horn regions of Africa and China, India, Korea and Japan regions of Asia.

Way Forward

  • Environmental ethics should take precedence over other issues like national and strategic interest or economic interest.
  • Oil, gas and coal production must fall six percent a year in order to limit catastrophic global warming, as per the UN's annual Production Gap assessment, which measures the difference between the Paris goals and countries' fossil fuel production plans.
  • There needs an enhanced commitment from nations more than their pledged INDCs (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions) under the Paris Agreement. However, it must not be used to pressurize developing countries to ramp up their global warming mitigation targets.


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