The past seven years have been the hottest on modern record with 2021 being the fifth warmest due to increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide and methane, triggering a string natural disaster.
New data released by Copernicus, the European earth monitoring program, shows that the average global temperature last year was 1.1-1.2 degrees Celsius higher than the pre-industrial average (1850). -1900), making it slightly cooler than in 2019 and 2020 but still much warmer than it was decades ago.
Vincent-Henri Peuch, director of atmospheric monitoring at Copernicus, says climate change is to blame for the high temperatures.
“Concentrations of carbon dioxide and methane are continuing to increase every year and show no signs of slowing down,” Peuch said. “These greenhouse gases are the main cause of climate change.”
Levels of atmospheric methane, a warming gas 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide, rose sharply last year – rising at the fastest rate since satellite measurements began.
Human activities are a significant source of methane, due to fossil fuel extraction, waste management and livestock farming, but natural sources of methane, such as from regions wetlands, also appear to be on the rise.
Copernicus said the reason for the increase is still not well understood.
Levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere also rise to the highest average on modern record in 2021, reaching 414 parts per million, according to new data. That represents a nearly 50% increase from pre-industrial levels.
As economic activity surged last year, global carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels increased estimated 4.9%, according to calculations by the Cicero Center for International Climate Research in Oslo in 2020, following a 5.4% decline in 2020 due to pandemic restrictions.
Samantha Burgess, deputy director of climate change services Copernicus, said: “It is surprising that the number of records we see has been broken in 2021, pointing to examples such as wildfires across Europe. and heatwaves in Canada.
“As we have a warmer atmosphere, that means those extreme events are becoming more and more likely,” she added. “We know emissions are continuing to rise, so the expectation is that we will see more records broken in 2022.”
Last summer was the hottest on record in Europe, and the continent has experienced a number of weather-related disasters, including devastating floods in Germany and Belgium in July.
The region also experienced heat waves across the Mediterranean, with a new maximum temperature record for Europe of 48.8 degrees Celsius being set in Sicily.
Temperatures across the Pacific Northwest, Canada and Greenland were also unusually hot last year. Severe wildfires in North America have contributed to large amounts of carbon dioxide emissions from burning forests – about 83 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, the highest levels ever recorded.
Separate climate analysis for 2021 temperature data from the UK Met office and from US NOAA is expected in the coming days.
Carlo Buontempo, Director of Copernicus Climate Change Services, says that temperatures will continue to rise without urgent emissions cuts.
These events are a stark reminder of the need to change the way we are, taking decisive and effective steps towards a sustainable society, and towards reduce net carbon emissions.