This is the 44th September in a row—and the 429th month in a row—that global temperatures have topped the 20th century averageby Bill McGuire / October 12, 2020 / Leave a comment
One reason why many people fail to grasp the urgency of the climate emergency is that the numbers that describe it just seem too small to matter. Figures just released by the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service show that last month was the hottest September on record worldwide, beating September 2019 by 0.05 degrees Celsius.
It is easy to think of such a tiny fraction as irrelevant and put it all down to a random blip. But place it within an undeniable broader trend, and things become far more alarming. This is the 44th September in a row—and the 429th month in a row—that global temperatures have topped the 20th century average. Throw in the fact that Arctic temperatures earlier this year eclipsed 30 degrees Celsius, and that the year as a whole is on track to be the hottest on record, and the picture becomes clearer and all the more disturbing.
A one degree rise?
It is easy to be fooled, too, into deriding the scale of temperature rise so far caused by global heating, and that predicted for the future. Since pre-industrial times, the global average temperature has climbed by a little over 1 degree Celsius. Set against daily and seasonal variability, this seems like nothing to get in a tizz over. But this is not how it works. Bear in mind that just 8 or 9 degrees Centigrade separates full Ice Age conditions from a hothouse planet with sea levels at nearly 20 metres, and the significance of that single degree becomes clear.
This also puts into perspective predictions for how quickly and how high temperatures will climb as the century progresses. To a large degree, this remains an open question, as the answer depends upon how well we do in terms of embracing a greener lifestyle and slashing greenhouse gas emissions.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a worst case could see the global average temperature rising to 5 degrees higher by 2081-2100; a catastrophic scenario that would surely bring about economic and societal breakdown. Even the IPCC’s best case would see temperatures breach 1.5 degrees—this value is regarded as a critical “guardrail”, above which dangerous, all-pervasive climate breakdown becomes inevitable.…