2021 the world's fifth-hottest year on record, say EU scientists

Last year was the world's fifth hottest on record, while levels of planet-warming carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere hit new highs in 2021, scientists from the EU's Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) said in a report on Monday.

The last seven years were the world's warmest "by a clear margin" in records dating back to 1850 and the average global temperature in 2021 was 1.1-1.2C above 1850-1900 levels, they said, with the hottest years being 2020 and 2016.

Countries committed under the 2015 Paris Agreement to try to limit global temperature rise to 1.5C, the level scientists say would avoid its worst impacts. That would require emissions to roughly halve by 2030, but so far they have charged higher.

As greenhouse gas emissions change the planet's climate, the long-term warming trend has continued. Climate change exacerbated many of the extreme weather events sweeping the world in 2021, from floods in Europe, China and South Sudan, to wildfires in Siberia and the United States.

"These events are a stark reminder of the need to change our ways, take decisive and effective steps toward a sustainable society and work towards reducing net carbon emissions," C3S director Carlo Buontempo said.

Global levels of CO2 and methane, the main greenhouse gases, continued to climb, and both hit record highs in 2021. Levels of CO2 in the atmosphere reached 414.3 parts per million in 2021, up by around 2.4ppm from 2020, the scientists said.

After a temporary dip in 2020 at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, provisional data suggest global CO2 emissions rebounded by 4.9% in 2021.

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