Nicole Welle | December 28, 2020
The past year brought intense wildfires, an increase in localized heat waves and one of the hottest Novembers on record, so it comes as no surprise that 2020 could be the hottest year ever recorded.
An intense, warming El Niño event occurred four years ago and contributed to the intense heat that caused 2016 to go down as the hottest year on record. This year, a cooling La Niña event should have led to lower global temperatures, but it did not seem to have much of an impact. The first 11 months of 2020 were only 0.2 degrees cooler than 2016, and climate experts have said there is a 55% chance 2020 will beat the record by the end of the year, according to the Associated Press.
Whether 2020 beats the record is less important than what the global temperature trend has revealed over the last decade. 2020 will mark the end of the hottest five-year period since recording began in 1880, a disturbing statistic that climate scientists say will continue into the future. Greenhouse gas concentrations are still rising in the atmosphere. This will cause global temperatures to continue to rise and lead to more years with increasingly intense hurricanes, more wildfires, less sea ice and longer heat waves, according to an NPR article.
Governments and corporations will have to make major changes in prioritizing environmental action if there is any hope of reducing future climate-driven disasters like these. Climate-driven disasters can cause billions of dollars of damage, and they take a heavy toll on human health and life, often disproportionately affecting poor communities and exacerbating inequality. Governments around the world are taking steps to reduce emissions and Joe Biden has promised to aid in the effort to reduce global emissions once he takes office. However, climate scientists say that these extreme events will continue to increase in intensity, so it is important that governments and communities prepare for them as much as possible.