Global temperatures in 2021 among highest on record, Nasa says

Temperatures dangerously close to increased risk to health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security and economic growth

Nasa and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released measurements showing 2021 was the sixth hottest year on record globally, part of a long-term warming trend.  AP
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Seven of the hottest years on record have occurred over the past decade, with 2021 coming in sixth, according to reports from Nasa and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

While it was slightly cooler than 2020, scientists say what is important about the report on 2021 is that it shows the world is consistently heating up.

“The big story is the long-term trend, not the individual ranking,” said Gavin Schmidt, director of Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

“It's pretty clear that it's getting warmer,” added Russel Vose of the NOAA.

At the current rate, scientists expect the global average temperature to inch above 1.5°C over pre-industrial levels in a little more than a decade.

The 1.5°C mark is the point at which point experts believe an “increased risk to health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security and economic growth” will occur.

In the Paris Agreement of 2015, countries committed to preventing global temperatures from rising above 1.5°C — but this requires most nations to halve their greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

While Mr Schmidt was not optimistic the world could avoid rising above 1.5°C of pre-industrial levels he said it was important to not stop trying.

“When we go through 1.5°C, it will still be worth reducing emissions to avoid the consequences of 2-2.5°C and that's always going to be the case, that there's never going to be a point at which it's not worth doing something on emissions to reduce the problems going forward into the future.”

As the earth continues to warm, scientists believe more and more severe weather events will occur. In 2021, climate disasters caused over $100 billion in damage worldwide, a report by Christian Aid showed.

The US was struck by 20 separate weather incidents that cost $1 billion or more.

The events included frigid temperatures in Texas in February, devastating wildfires in the West in August and punishing tornadoes across the US heartlands in December. At least 688 people died in 2021 in the US due to weather-related disasters — more than double the previous year.

“As we go forward, each successive year, we're going to expect to see more of these [severe weather events] in the future than we have in the past,” said Mr Vose.

Updated: January 14, 2022, 8:12 AM