2020 is on track to be one of the hottest years on record, according to a new report. The global average temperature for the five years 2016-2020 was 1.1 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures. Even a certain degree of change can have terrible consequences. World leaders who signed the Paris Agreement are working to keep the planet warm by no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius to avoid catastrophic damage. However, the report reiterates that they are far from achieving this goal.
A new report released Wednesday by the World Meteorological Association and other U.N. agencies shows how climate change is steadily worsening, even as COVID-19 disrupts normal business this year. To make matters worse, the pandemic has made it harder for scientists to document how our planet has changed as a result of climate change.
“This has been an unprecedented year for humanity and the planet. The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted life around the world. At the same time, the rate of warming and climate destruction in our planet continues to accelerate. “UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement.” We must turn the process of recovering from the pandemic into a real opportunity for a better future. “
According to the report, between now and 2024, there is at least a 24 per cent chance that the key 1.5C threshold will be exceeded in a year. As global temperatures begin to hit this point year after year, scientists predict that as many as 7% of the Earth’s ecosystems will be transformed into entirely new biomes. These changes will prompt humans, animals and plants to adapt, migrate, or simply disappear from what they call their homes. But this is still the best case scenario. If people stick to the climate policies that have been put in place, by 2100 future generations will see the world warm by about 3 degrees Celsius.
To keep the climate warmer than 1.5 degrees Celsius, the paris agreement’s target, greenhouse gas emissions need to fall by about 7 percent a year. The good news is that this year we have a good chance of seeing this reduction. The bad news is that a major epidemic will reduce emissions so much, and reopened companies are already approaching pre-COVID-19 levels. This will require serious action to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the Earth’s heating next year and beyond.
The pandemic has also had a huge impact on the collection of weather and climate data. Weather observations made by aircraft fell by a staggering 75 to 80 per cent in March and April this year, making forecasting and weather models less reliable, as flight suspensions and travel restrictions came into effect. According to the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts, aircraft reports can provide scientists with information on temperature, wind, humidity and turbulence. Data losses were even more severe in the tropical and southern hemispheres, with information declining by 90 per cent.
In March, almost all oceanographic research vessels were recalled. Some marine buoys and other data-collecting equipment have failed because people cannot maintain them. Researchers are also not likely to make manual measurements in the field while working remotely.
As a result, researchers have had to find creative ways to collect data. To make up for all the grounded flights, they relied more on satellite data and deployed more radio detectors– which have been carried by U.S. weather balloons since the 1930s. Ocean researchers rushed to deploy autonomous instruments for observation before ending the team’s mission early.
“Overnight, our ship went from a research ship that observed a decade of ocean change to a simple steamboat home.” Leticia Barbero, a former chief scientist on the USS Ronald H. Brown, said in a statement from UNESCO in June.
As the outbreak continues, scientists are still scrambling to figure out how to keep track of climate change. The report warns that a lack of data could have long-term consequences. The gap between the data could make historical timelines incomplete and confusing our understanding of how quickly humanity can make our planet a more unstable place to live.